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UK Small Business Statistics

Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions



  • There were a record 5.7 million private sector businesses at the start of 2017.
  • This is an increase of 197,000 since 2016, and 2.2 million more than in 2000.
  • The number of employing businesses increased by 41,000 (+3%) since 2016, and the number of non-employing businesses by 155,000 (+4%).

SMEs and the Economy:

  • Small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2017 and 99.9% were small or medium-sized (SMEs).
  • Total employment in SMEs was 16.1 million; 60% of all private sector employment in the UK.
  • The combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.9 trillion, 51% of all private sector turnover in the UK.

Composition of the business population:

  • In 2017 there were 1.3 million employing businesses and 4.3 million non-employing businesses. Therefore, 76% of businesses did not employ anyone aside from the owner(s).
  • The overall business population includes three main legal forms: there were 3.4 million sole proprietorships (60% of the total), 1.9 million companies (33%), and 414,000 ordinary partnerships (7%).
  • Of the 5.7 million businesses, 45% (2.6 million) were registered for VAT or PAYE.

Trends in the business population

  • There has been sustained growth in the total business population, with increases of 2.2m (+64%) since 2000 and 197,000 (+4%) since 2016.
  • The majority of population growth since 2000 has been due to non-employing businesses, which accounted for 89% of the overall increase.
  • Non-employing businesses accounted for 79% of the overall 197,000 increase in the last year.
  • The number of companies and sole proprietorships has increased in the last year by 128,000 (+7%) and 76,000 (+2%) respectively. However, the number of ordinary partnerships fell by 7,200 (-2%).

Locations and industries

  • The number of businesses per person is higher in southern England than elsewhere in the UK.
  • SMEs account for at least 99.5% of the businesses in every main industry sector.
  • Nearly a fifth of all SMEs operate in Construction, compared with less than 1% in the Mining, Quarrying and Utilities sector.
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