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Northern Ireland Business Demography Statistics 2021

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The latest Northern Ireland Business Demography statistics were released today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). 


Northern Ireland Business Demography Statistics

Northern Ireland Business Demography Statistics

The data are sourced from the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR), which is a register of all Value Added Tax (VAT) and/or Pay As You Earn (PAYE) registered businesses in the UK. The IDBR covers most of the economy including the Agriculture, Production, Construction and Service sectors. It does not hold details on those small businesses that fall below the VAT threshold (£85,000 in 2021) or do not operate a PAYE scheme. 

The demography statistics detailed in this output are based on businesses registered in Northern Ireland only. This is in line with the UK demography statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and allows for international comparisons. The number of businesses with an active VAT and/or PAYE registration in Northern Ireland throughout 2021 was just under 65,000. These registrations accounted for just over 2% of the total active, registered UK business population, estimated to be 2.9 million for the same period.

Business demography statistics are taken as changes in registrations over the calendar year. New business registrations are referred to as births and business de-registrations are referred to as deaths. A business birth does not necessarily equate to a new business and a business death does not necessarily equate to a business closing.

The ONS produces the UK Business Demography report. The most recent data was published on 17 November 2022. 

Key points from the Northern Ireland Business Demography bulletin are listed below.

There were 6,655 business births in Northern Ireland during 2021, an increase of 17.4% on the previous year.

All four regions of the UK saw an increase in the number of business births during 2021, following a decline in the previous year – England (8.5%), Wales (22.5%), and Scotland (12.2%).

The business birth rate (number of births as a proportion of active businesses) in Northern Ireland was 10.3% in 2021, an increase of 1.2 percentage points (pps) over the year, and is at the highest level since 2017.

There were 5,200 business deaths in Northern Ireland in 2021, an increase of 24.6% on the previous year.

All four regions of the UK saw an increase in the number of business deaths during 2021 – England (8.9%), Wales (20.1%), and Scotland (8.2%).

Northern Ireland’s business death rate in 2021 (8.0%) remained lower than the other three regions. Scotland and Wales saw their highest business death rates since the series began in 2005. Death rates in England are at their highest since 2017, with Northern Ireland at their highest since 2014.

The number of business births was greater than the number of deaths for all district council areas, except Antrim and Newtownabbey.

Birth rates increased for all district councils in Northern Ireland except Antrim and Newtownabbey, which saw a decrease of 2.0 pps over the year to 9.9%.

Death rates increased across all district council areas over the year to December 2021. Mid Ulster continued to have the lowest death rate (5.7%) across the region for the seventh consecutive year. It is likely that the Covid-19 pandemic contributed towards higher business death rates in 2021.

Business birth and death rates are highest for the Transport and storage industry and lowest in Health.

The Transport and storage (including postal) industry saw the highest number of births (1,000) and birth rate (24.4%) in 2021, and the largest increase in the number of births over the year (335 or 50.4%). The Accommodation and food services sector saw strong growth in business births, with the birth rate increasing by 3.4 pps to 12.9%, following a decline of 2.6 pps the previous year. This may have resulted from an increase in demand following the easing of restrictions imposed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.

Business administration saw a large increase in business deaths, resulting in a 4.2 pps increase in the death rate, which was 12.5% in 2021, the highest since 2010.

Business births and deaths data are released quarterly by the ONS in response to the pandemic.

The pandemic has driven the need for more timely business data. In response, the ONS has released Business demography, quarterly experimental statistics for the UK.   

NISRA statisticians are assessing the need and feasibility of delivering a similar quarterly business demography release for Northern Ireland.

Notes to editors: 

1. Business births and deaths data are subject to revision, therefore, figures presented in this publication may not match those published in previous reports in this series.

2. The Northern Ireland (NI) business demography statistics are produced from the NI element of the Inter-Departmental Business (IDBR).  The data include only those businesses registered in NI and exclude those operating in NI, but have their registered or main address elsewhere in the UK. Public sector organisations and the agricultural sector are also excluded.

3. The starting point for business demography is the concept of a population of active businesses in a given year. These are defined as businesses that were registered on the IDBR by having a VAT and/or PAYE at any time during the reference year. Demography statistics measure changes in these registrations over the calendar year.  New business registrations are referred to as births and business de-registrations are referred to as deaths.  A business birth does not necessarily equate to a new business starting and a business death does not necessarily equate to a business closing.

4. The full Northern Ireland Business Demography report is available on the NISRA website.

5. The number of businesses operating in NI by industry, location, employee and turnover size bands, legal status, and foreign-ownership is available on the NISRA website.

6. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk

7. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Neil Mulhern,

Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS)

neil.mulhern@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 90255196.

8. Follow NISRA on Twitter – @NISRA

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