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Statistics from Enterprise Directorate – Enterprise and Economic Development Analysis

Key publication

Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions (National Statistics publication)

This BIS National Statistics publication estimates the total number of private sector businesses in the UK, and their associated employment and turnover, not just those on the official business register. Data are split by legal status; country; region; 1, 2 and 3 digit Standard Industrial Classification; and number of employees (0, 1-4, 5-9, 10-19, 20-49, 50-99, 100-199, 200-249, 250-499, 500+). See here. The first edition relates to the number of businesses at the start of 2010 and was published in May 2011. These estimates will then be updated annually from Autumn 2011. This publication is a continuation of the Small and Medium sized Enterprise Statistics (SME) series but uses an improved methodology, so the publication has been re-named to highlight this discontinuity in the data. A comparable headline back-series will be produced and made available through the link above. It is not robust to compare data from this series to previous estimates from the SME statistics series, which relate to the period 1994-2009 (see here)

Key publications from ONS

UK Business: Activity, Size and Location (National Statistics publication)

Data on the number of registered businesses in the UK at a specific point in time (March of the reference year) is available from the ONS. Information is available for both the number of enterprises and the number of local units, split by industrial sector, various geographical levels (UK countries, regions, parliamentary constituency and local authority areas), turnover and employment size band and age of business.

Business Demography: Business births, deaths and survival rates (National Statistics publication)

Data on the number of business ‘births’ and ‘deaths’ (based on VAT and/or PAYE registrations) in the UK are available from the ONS website. A measure of the UK business stock is provided, but differs to the BPE and UK Business publications above mainly because it relates to registered businesses that are active at any time during the reference year. Business survival rate data is also available, showing the percentage of businesses that are still registered for VAT and/or PAYE a certain number of years after they first registered. Data are split by industrial sector and all UK countries, regions and local authority areas. Additional older data between 1994 and 2007 was also produced by BIS in the publication Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-Registrations, which can be accessed here

Other useful sites

SME definitions

There is no single definition of a small firm. Our statistics define SMEs as businesses with less than 250 employees. However other commonly used definitions also take turnover and balance sheet information into account.

The Companies Act 1985 definitions for an SME in relation to compulsory audit thresholds are described on the Small and Medium Sized Companies page.

The European Commission web site has a full explanation of the European Definition of an SME.

Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR)

The Business Population Estimates (and previously the Small and Medium sized Enterprise Statistics) are derived in part from data held on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR). At the start of 2010 the IDBR had records for 2.1 million of the estimated 4.5 million UK enterprises. Ad-hoc analysis of the data for statistical purposes can be commissioned from the ONS.


Minister responsible

Mark Prisk is the minister responsible for this policy area.

BIS Outreach programme

A new initiative from BIS whereby civil servants will undertake short placements in your organisation.

The programme aims to strengthen relationships and build credibility with our stakeholders.

Learn more about the BIS Outreach programme


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