The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Friday released the results of its latest Business Conditions and Sentiments Survey which showed that, while reported revenue decreases have fallen to just 18 per cent, many businesses remain challenged by COVID-safe controls and supply chain disruption.
Nearly 64 per cent of businesses are being “adversely impacted” by COVID-safe provisions like stringent cleaning requirements and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) among their staff.
Of the businesses surveyed, 21 per cent of businesses said they had felt the impacts of at least one of these provisions to “a great extent”.
CreditorWatch chief economist Harley Dale said that while sparse reports of falling revenue emerge as a positive, the fact that such a large proportion of businesses are still feeling the impacts of COVID measures shows that “we are not out of the woods”.
“That is the best result since the ABS began this series in July 2020,” Mr Dale said. “It also represents the first time since December 2020 that an increase in revenue has outweighed a decrease in revenue.
“However, there is always a sting in the tail. Sixty-four per cent of businesses report COVID-related controls are still having an adverse impact on business conditions, which should be seen as a prescient warning that we are not out of the woods.”
John Shepherd, head of industry statistics at the ABS, said businesses have pivoted to adapt to changing conditions in various ways.
Some 62 per cent of business leaders said they’ve changed their ordering processes, while 41 per cent said they’d changed the way they deliver products and services to customers, and another 39 per cent said they have changed suppliers.
“Three in 10 (30 per cent) businesses are experiencing supply chain disruptions, with 37 per cent of these businesses affected to a great extent,” Mr Shepherd said.
“Another response from businesses has been to increased teleworking.
“Before COVID-19, one in five (20 per cent) businesses had staff teleworking. Currently, 30 per cent of businesses have staff teleworking, with 45 per cent of these experiencing improved staff wellbeing as a benefit.”
Pointing to the March CreditorWatch Business Risk Review, Mr Dale said that manufacturing, while still experiencing slowed productivity, could be turning a corner. He said supply disruptions highlight the risk of recoveries in these sectors slowing.
“Growth in credit is being driven by housing, according to the latest RBA stats, which is hardly surprising given government support programs,” Mr Dale said, “with owner -occupier housing credit driving the race on a three-month annualised basis.
“Contrary to some speculation, credit extended to housing investors is still not on the front grid. We need to see evidence of stronger outcomes for personal and business credit, and the CreditorWatch BRR reinforces this point.”
John Buckley is a journalist at Accountants Daily.
Before joining the team in 2021, John worked at The Sydney Morning Herald. His reporting has featured in a range of outlets including The Washington Post, The Age, and The Saturday Paper.