Finance Small Business Five charts showing how the pandemic has hurt Australian businesses
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Five charts showing how the pandemic has hurt Australian businesses

The coronavirus is affecting all corners of the economy. Photo: Getty
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Two-thirds of Australian businesses have lost turnover as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Consumer confidence has plunged to levels not seen since the recession of the early 1990s.

And the projected rise in unemployment points to a drawn-out recovery.

The fluid nature of the crisis makes it difficult for economists and policymakers to offer concrete forecasts.

But the ABS is publishing more regular and targeted datasets in an attempt to minimise the uncertainty.

The below five charts are taken from its latest COVID-19 business survey and show how the virus has already affected Australian businesses.

1. Business closures

The coronavirus has so far forced 7 per cent of Australian businesses to stop trading.

Based on previous ABS data, that equates to 166,302 businesses temporarily shutting up shop.

The chart below shows which industries have been hit the hardest.

2. Reasons for shutting up shop

Across the whole economy, 10 per cent of Australian businesses were shut at the beginning of the week commencing March 20.

As mentioned earlier, 7 per cent of those companies had closed their doors because of the coronavirus, with 3 per cent stopping for different reasons.

Of the 7 per cent that closed due to COVID-19, 84 per cent said they paused trading in response to government restrictions – making this the most common reason for doing so.

It’s a statistic that speaks to the key governmental challenge at the heart of the coronavirus pandemic: Striking the right balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods.

3. How restrictions and demand have affected various sectors

Government restrictions and falling consumer demand have affected many businesses in equal measure, with two-thirds of businesses reporting a reduction in turnover or cash flow as a result of COVID-19.

But the export-focused mining sector has been hit by government restrictions more than collapsing demand.

And service sectors have suffered more at the hands of consumers, as reduced income and job losses weigh on demand.

In fact, the chart below demonstrates that many sectors have been affected by one factor more than the other.

4. Job losses

Images of large queues outside CentreLink provided an arresting illustration of the human cost of the economic downturn.

The government has since announced a $130 billion wage subsidy program designed to minimise job losses.

But more than one million casual workers are ineligible for the payment – and ABS data reveals almost one in two businesses (47 per cent) have already made changes to their workforce as a result of the contagion.

The chart below breaks down these changes by action and business size.

5. How businesses are adapting

The rush to digitise various business models has been well documented in the media.

Property auctions have moved online, high-end restaurants have pivoted to takeaway, and workplaces have embraced remote working.

The ABS data shows “shifting to online” has been the most common response to the COVID-19 crisis – followed by negotiating rent and fast-tracking investment plans.