UK Small Business Statistics

Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions in 2018


  • There were 5.8 million small businesses at the start of 2019.
  • Compared with the previous year, the private sector business population increased 3.5% (+200,000 businesses).

SMEs and the Economy:

  • At the start of 2019 there were 5.82 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees), 99.3% of the total business. SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population (5.9 million businesses). 
  • SMEs account for three fifths of the employment and around half of turnover in the UK private sector.
  • Total employment in SMEs was 16.6 million (60% of the total), whilst turnover was estimated at £2.2 trillion (52%).

Composition of the business population:

  • In 2019, there were estimated to be 5.9 million UK private sector businesses
  • 1.4 million of these had employees and 4.5 million had no employees.
  • The UK private sector business population is made up of 3.5 million sole proprietorships (59% of the total), 2.0 million actively trading companies (34%) and 405,000 ordinary partnerships (7%) in 2019.
  • 2.6 million private sector businesses as registered for VAT or PAYE, 45% of the estimated total population.

Trends in the business population

  • Between 2018 and 2019, the total business population grew by 200,000 (3.5%). Since 2000 there has been an overall increase of just over two-thirds.
  • Between 2000 and 2019 the business population increased by 2.4 million (+69%), with the highest rate of increase was +7% between 2003 and 2004, and between 2013 and 2014.
  • There was a decrease in the business population (for the first time in the series) between 2017 and 2018 of 27,000.

Locations and industries

  • Nearly a fifth of all SMEs were operating in Construction, compared with less than 1% in the Mining, Quarrying and Utilities sector.
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade and Repair accounted for 14% of all SME employment and just over a third of SME turnover.
  • London (1.1 million) and the South East (940,000) had the most private sector businesses, accounting for 35% of the UK business population, while the North East had 152,000 private sector businesses, the least of any English region.

Figures obtained from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills