One of the questions we are most frequently asked at Company Bug is “how many limited companies are there in the UK”, or similar questions relating to the business population as a whole
The most recent reputable estimate of business numbers is the Department of BIS Business Population Estimates, which was last updated in October 2011.
How many small businesses are there?
According to the latest statistics, based on data collected at the start of 2011, there are around 4.5m businesses currently operating in the UK. These businesses employ over 23.4 million people, and turnover an estimated £3.1 trillion.
A massive 99.9% of all enterprises are defined as SMEs (i.e. they employ less than 250 people), and SMEs employ almost 59% of all private sector employees.
99.2% of all enterprises are defined as ‘small’ – businesses with less than 50 employees, and 74% of all the businesses in the UK have no employees at all.
How many limited companies are there?
There are around 2.8 million sole proprietorships in the UK, 450,000 partnerships, and 1.3 million limited companies.
Of the total number of limited companies, 59% had employees at the start of 2011, which means that there are around 550,000 one-man-band limited companies in the UK.
Unlike sole traders, it is much easier to pinpoint precise numbers of limited companies, as the relevant data is captured centrally at Companies House.
Breakdown by region
Although the number of limited companies / businesses established in each region will obviously vary according to population sizes, the number of private enterprises per 10,000 adults is 897 in the UK as a whole.
In London, the number is 1188, followed by the South East (1078), East of England (1002) and the South West (982).
The lowest proportion of enterprises is in the North East, which has a mere 552 enterprises per 10,000 adults.
By country, the breakdown is as follows: England (927), Northern Ireland (861), Wales (784) and Scotland (673).
Many Company Bug readers are in the professional business sector, mainly working via their own limited companies.
The share of businesses in the ‘professional, scientific and technical activities’ sector is 13.3% in the country as a whole.
London, once again, has the highest proportion – at 16.6%, followed by the South East (15.3%) and East of England (14.4%).
The latest edition of the business population estimates will be available on the Department for BIS website here.
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