6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Feb 2018  
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ANNUAL ECONOMIC ACTIVITY SURVEY AND QUARTERLY BUSINESS INDICATORS SURVEY


INTRODUCTION

The Economic Activity Survey (EAS) collection was first conducted as a pilot test in 1989–90, with estimates first being published in 1991–92 in Business Operations and Industry Performance Australia (cat. no. 8140.0) with two years of data. The EAS collects information about the operation and financial performance of all businesses in the public trading and private employing sectors of the Australian economy. As part of this suite of information, the survey collects data on employment, income, expenses (including labour costs), profit, inventories, capital expenditure and disposals of assets from businesses. The core outputs provide key measures of the health and performance of nearly all Australian industries, and are used by analysts in both the private and public sectors. The EAS is an annual survey. The collection period covered, in general, is the 12 months to 30 June. The survey is based on a sample of approximately 20,000 businesses from a total population of approximately 1,300,000 businesses which are in scope of the survey. EAS data is one of the main components in the calculation of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures.

The Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (QBIS) collects data from private sector businesses and produces estimates of sales of goods and services, wages and salaries, company profits, and the book values of inventories from selected industries in Australia. The survey is based on a sample of approximately 15,500 businesses from a total population of approximately 1,000,000 businesses which are in scope of the survey. QBIS data is one of the main components in the calculation of the quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures.


SURVEY OUTPUT

EAS estimates of the economic and financial performance of Australian industry are published annually in Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0). The annual estimates are produced using a combination of directly collected data from the annual EAS, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and Business Activity Statement (BAS) data provided by businesses to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Prior to 2001–02, estimates were published annually in Business Operations and Industry Performance, Australia (cat. no. 8140.0).

The main series compiled in Australian Industry include:

  • key data by industry division - this includes employment, wages and salaries, sales and service income, total income, total expenses, operating profit before tax, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation;
  • labour costs by industry division; and
  • industry value added by industry division.

EAS estimates are cross classified by industry sub-division, business size and state/territory.

QBIS data are published quarterly in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0), which was fully implemented in the March quarter 2001. QBIS estimates exclude micro non-employing businesses.

The main series published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0) include quarterly estimates of inventories, sales of goods and services, company profits before income tax, company gross operating profits, wages and salaries, and selected operating ratios.

These data are classified by:
  • industry division, in accordance with the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0) (cat. no. 1292.0);
  • original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates for Australia in current price terms;
  • volume measures for sales and inventories; and
  • state/territory data for sales and wages in current price terms.

Employment is defined in the EAS as the number of persons working for businesses during the last pay period ending in June of the financial year. Employment includes working proprietors and partners, employees absent on paid or prepaid leave, employees on workers' compensation who continue to be paid through the payroll, and contract workers paid through the payroll. Excluded are persons paid by commission only, non-salaried directors and volunteers. Self-employed persons such as consultants and contractors are excluded from selected businesses to avoid double counting, as they have their own chance of selection on the survey frame. See Chapter 4 for further information on the concept of employment, and on definitions of employment used in ABS household and business surveys.

Employment is not published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0).


SCOPE

The businesses that contribute to the EAS are classified:
  • by institutional sector, in accordance with the Standard Institutional Sector Classification of Australia (SISCA), which is detailed in Standard Economic Sector Classifications of Australia (SESCA), 2008 (cat. no. 1218.0);
  • by industry, in accordance with the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0) (cat. no. 1292.0);
  • by state and territory; and
  • by business size.

The scope of the EAS includes all employing businesses in the Australian economy except for:
  • Finance (ANZSIC 06 Subdivision 62);
  • Insurance and Superannuation Funds (ANZSIC 06 Subdivision 63);
  • Public Administration (ANZSIC 06 Subdivision 75);
  • Defence (ANZSIC 06 Subdivision 76);
  • Private Households Employing Staff (ANZSIC 06 Subdivision 96); and
  • General government (SISCA 3000), except those businesses classified to Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services (ANZSIC 06 Subdivision 28).

Government owned or controlled Public Non-Financial Corporations are included.

The businesses that contribute to the QBIS are classified to:
  • industry division, in accordance with the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0) (cat. no. 1292.0);
  • original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates for Australia in current price terms;
  • volume measures for sales and inventories; and
  • state/territory data for sales and wages, in current price terms.


SURVEY METHODOLOGY

Data for the EAS are collected directly by online electronic collection on an annual basis. It is based on a random sample of approximately 20,000 units which is stratified by industry and business size. Non-response is kept to a minimum by the use of intensive follow-up. Businesses that do not respond by the due date are initially sent reminder letters and then followed up by telephone.

The EAS reference period is the year ending 30 June. Although financial data estimates relate to the full twelve months, employment estimates relate to the last pay period ending in June of the given year. As a result, estimates of wages and salaries per person employed may be affected by any fluctuations in employment during the reference period. EAS respondents are asked to provide data on the same basis as their income statement and balance sheet.

The QBIS is collected directly by online electronic collection on a quarterly basis. It is based on a random sample of approximately 15,500 units which is stratified by industry, state/territory and number of employees.

QBIS respondents are asked to provide data on the same basis as their own management accounts. Where a selected unit does not respond in a given survey period, a value is estimated. If data are subsequently provided, the estimated value is replaced with the reported data.


SAMPLE DESIGN

In order to minimise the load placed on providers, the strategy for the EAS is to use, as much as possible, information sourced from the ATO, thus reducing the size sample for direct collection. The frame (from which the direct collection sample is selected) is stratified using information held on the ABS Business Register. Businesses eligible for selection in the direct collect sample are then selected from the frame using stratified random sampling techniques.

Businesses are selected to participate in the EAS (the direct collection sample) only if they meet two criteria: their turnover exceeds a threshold level, or the business is identified as being an employing business (based on ATO information) during the reference period. Turnover thresholds are set for each ANZSIC class so that the contribution of surveyed businesses accounts for 97.5% of total industry class turnover, as determined by ATO Business Activity Statement (BAS) data. Businesses which meet neither of these criteria are referred to as 'micro non-employing businesses'. These businesses are not eligible for selection in the sample. For these units, data are modelled based on BAS data sourced from the ATO, then added to the directly collected estimates to produce industry statistics.

QBIS frames and samples are revised each quarter to ensure that they remain representative of the survey population. The timing for creating each quarter’s survey frame is consistent with that of other ABS business surveys, providing for greater consistency when comparing data across surveys.

Additionally, with these revisions to the QBIS sample, some of the units from the sampled sector are rotated out of the survey and are replaced by others, to spread the reporting workload equitably. Micro non-employing businesses are excluded from the QBIS.


ESTIMATION

Generalised regression estimation has been used since the 2006–07 EAS. This estimation method enables maximum use of observed linear relationships between data directly collected from businesses in the survey and auxiliary information. When the auxiliary information is strongly correlated with data items collected in a survey, the generalised regression estimation methodology will improve the accuracy of the estimates. The auxiliary variables used in the EAS are turnover and wages sourced from the BAS data.

Where possible, historical data are used for imputing non-responding units. Where units have not provided data previously or had not been selected in previous surveys, data is imputed based on BAS data sourced from the ATO or Live Respondent Mean is used. Clerical imputation is used where only partial responses are received.

Survey outliers are treated using the 'surprise outlier' or 'winsorised outlier' technique.

The estimation procedure includes new business provisions, which adjust estimates to allow for the time lag between businesses commencing operation and their inclusion on the ABS Business Register.

For further information on estimation methods used in ABS business surveys, refer to Chapter 23: Methods Used in ABS Business Surveys.

QBIS data are published as original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates. For further information on estimation methods used in QBIS, refer to the Explanatory Notes in Business Indicators, Australia (ABS cat. no. 5676.0).


RELIABILITY OF THE ESTIMATES

Estimates from the EAS are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error. The relative standard errors of EAS estimates are published in Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0).

Estimates from the QBIS are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error. The relative standard errors of QBIS estimates are published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0).

For further information on variance estimation techniques, or on sampling and non-sampling error, refer to Chapter 16: Overview of Survey Methods.


DATA COMPARABILITY OVER TIME: EAS

In order to provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time, changes to survey methods, survey concepts, data item definitions, frequency of collection, and time series analysis methods are made as infrequently as possible. Significant changes to the EAS have included:

1989–90
  • The EAS collection was first conducted as a pilot test, using a sample of about 600 units.

1990–91
  • The survey was expanded to a full dress rehearsal, with a sample of around 8,000 units. Estimates for 1990–91 were considered for publication, but were held over until 1991–92 estimates were also available. Results published in Business Operations and Industry Performance, Australia (cat. no. 8140.0).

1993-94
  • Industry classification changed from Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC) to ANZSIC.

1994–95
  • Expansion of the survey form to collect data for the compilation of Input-Output and Supply-Use tables. The expansion involved modifying some existing questions to provide a finer level of detail, and including additional questions.

1995–96
  • Questions about waste management and selected expenses (Input-Output) were expanded into two separate supplementary surveys that accompanied the main EAS survey form.
  • A new, shorter version of the main EAS survey form was also trialled on 400 respondents.

1996–97
  • The main EAS survey form (the "core form") was produced in a simplified format, with all questions appearing at the front and Include/Excludes, Notes and other explanatory material at the back.
  • New questions were included on the core form, including whether the organisation was a not for profit organisation. An additional question regarding sponsorship was included on the expenses (Input-Output) form.
  • Selected experimental estimates derived by incorporating business income tax (BIT) data were published for the first time.

1997–98
  • Tourism Satellite Accounts forms were collected.

1998–99
  • Selected experimental detailed industry estimates derived by incorporating business income tax data were published for the first time.

2000–01
  • Data of Donations by business to community projects, and Sponsorship, were collected from a subsample of EAS businesses, as a supplementary survey.
  • Data relating to ANZSIC Division A (Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing) are not available from either ABS sources or ABARE.

2001–02
  • With the introduction of The New Tax System (TNTS), 2001–02 saw a major change, with the EAS collection adopting new statistical infrastructure and a new statistical units model based on the ABN for businesses with simple structures and the TAU for businesses with complex structures. This resulted in a new data series commencing from the 2001-02 reference period. To help bridge the series, key data were presented for 2000-01 on the bases of the old and the new infrastructure.
  • Results published in Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0).

2002–03
  • Additional sample and questions included for the (biennial) Information and Communications Technology Industry Surveys.
  • ANZSIC Division A restored to outputs.

2003–04
  • Additional sample and questions included to enable compilation of the Tourism Satellite Accounts.
  • Collection of most assets and liabilities data discontinued indefinitely.

2004–05
  • Additional sample and questions included for the (biennial) Information and Communications Technology Industry Surveys.
  • Employment data included in outputs as experimental estimates.

2005–06
  • Additional sample included to enable estimates produced on the 1993 edition of ANZSIC to be bridged to those for 2006.

2006–07
  • ANZSIC06 was introduced together with generalised regression as the new estimation method for sampled units, and supplemented with ATO business activity statement (BAS) for micro non-employing businesses.

2007-08
  • Additional questions included to provide more detailed breakdown of sales and service income, purchases and inventories.
  • Data for the private sector of Division O (Public Administration and Safety) now included.

2008–09
  • Sample size increased by about one-third (from approximately 15,000 to 20,000) to improve reliability of estimates.

2011–12
  • Sample size increased by 200 units to improve reliability of Division B (Mining) estimates.

2012-13
  • Online electronic collection used for the first time.


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