Northern Ireland Inter-Departmental Business Register Statistics 2021

Date published: 10 June 2021

The latest Northern Ireland Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) statistics have been released today by NISRA.

Business Register and Employment Survey 2020 statistics
Business Register and Employment Survey 2020 statistics

The IDBR is a register of all businesses that are registered for Value Added Tax (VAT) and/or operating a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme 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 2020/2021) or do not operate a PAYE scheme. 

A snapshot of the IDBR is taken each year to produce statistics on the number of businesses operating in Northern Ireland.  These statistics are presented in the Northern Ireland IDBR report and associated tables include industry, size, legal status, location and foreign ownership data.  Information on foreign owned businesses operating in the UK is obtained by the ONS from Dun and Bradstreet, a market information company. 

Key points from the statistical bulletin are listed below.

The number of businesses operating in Northern Ireland increased by 2.0% over the year to March 2021:

  • The number of VAT and/or PAYE registered businesses operating in Northern Ireland is estimated to have risen by 1,500 (2.0%) to 77,640.  This marked the seventh consecutive year of increase following a period of decline from 2008 to 2014.

Construction, Production, and Services all saw an increase on 2020, the sixth consecutive year of growth for all three sectors:

  • The Services sector, which remained the largest in Northern Ireland, accounted for 56% of all businesses and grew by 3.1% over the year to March 2021. Within the Services sector, Transport and storage (including postal) businesses witnessed a significant increase on the previous year (435 businesses or 15%) which can be largely attributed to the growing demand for delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The number of businesses in the Construction sector reached a ten-year high (10,830 businesses) but remained 5.8% below the series high figure of (11,495) in 2010.

The geographic split of businesses across the eleven district council areas remained relatively unchanged:

  • Of the 1,550 newly registered businesses in Northern Ireland, 235 (15%) were in Belfast, compared with 60% in 2020, and a further 205 (13%) were in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.
  • Belfast remained the District Council area with the most businesses (11,300), accounting for 15% of all VAT and/or PAYE registered businesses in Northern Ireland in 2021.  The most recent Business Register and Employment Survey (2019) showed that 30% of all employee jobs across Northern Ireland were based in the Belfast District Council area.

Of the 77,640 businesses operating in Northern Ireland 1,970 (2.5%) were non-NI owned:

  • Non-NI owned businesses accounted for 2.5% of the business population but almost one quarter (24%) of employees.
  • The number of businesses registered in an EU member state (excluding the Republic of Ireland) operating in Northern Ireland increased by 2.4% (5 businesses) over the year to March, 2021.  The number of businesses operating in Northern Ireland from countries outside of Great Britain and the EU increased by 7.0% (40 businesses) over the year, while the number of Republic of Ireland owned businesses increased by 1.4% (5 businesses). However, the number of jobs provided by Republic of Ireland owned businesses fell by 7.0% (1,070 jobs) over the year.

Upcoming Releases

The Economic and Labour Market Statistics Branch will release the following publications in June 2021:

  • Labour Market Report on 14th June;
  • Quarterly Employment Survey on 14th June;
  • Index of Production on 16th June;
  • Index of Services on 16th June.

A separate briefing will be issued, on the day of publication, for each of these releases.

Notes to editors: 

1. The IDBR contains information on all businesses in the United Kingdom which are either VAT registered and/or operating a PAYE scheme. The register is located in the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Newport, Wales but the Northern Ireland element of the register is updated and maintained by the Economic and Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMSB) within the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), an agency of the Department of Finance (DoF).

2. The IDBR covers most of the economy including the Agriculture, Production and Service sectors in Northern Ireland.  It does not, however, include very small businesses which fall below the VAT threshold (£85,000 in 2020/2021) or do not operate a PAYE scheme. This means that many self-employed workers will not be included on the IDBR. Latest figures published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which include an estimate of the number of unregistered businesses in the private sector, indicate that at the start of 2020 the number of unregistered businesses in Northern Ireland was 76,710 (53,075 in 2019). These figures can be accessed at Business population business estimates 2020 page on gov.uk.

3. The full Northern Ireland Inter-Departmental Business Register Statistics report is available on the NISRA website.

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

6. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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

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