UK Data Service data catalogue record for:

Annual Business Survey, 2008-2016: Secure Access

Title details

SN: 7451
Title: Annual Business Survey, 2008-2016: Secure Access
Alternative title: ABS
Persistent identifier: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-7451-9
Depositor: Office for National Statistics
Principal investigator(s): Office for National Statistics
Data collector(s): Office for National Statistics
Sponsor(s): Office for National Statistics


The citation for this study is:

Office for National Statistics. (2018). Annual Business Survey, 2008-2016: Secure Access. [data collection]. 9th Edition. UK Data Service. SN: 7451,

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Subject Categories

Economic conditions and indicators - Economics
Income, property and investment - Economics
Trade, industry and markets - Industry and management


Abstract copyright UK Data Service and data collection copyright owner.

The Annual Business Survey (ABS) is an annual survey of businesses covering the production, construction, distribution and service industries, which represents about two-thirds of the UK economy in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA).

Every year, ABS questionnaires are sent by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to around 62,000 businesses in Great Britain, and by the Department for Finance and Personnel Northern Ireland (DFPNI) to around 9,000 businesses in Northern Ireland. Data for Northern Ireland are not available from the UK Data Archive.

The ABS is the largest business survey conducted by the ONS in terms of the combined number of respondents and variables it covers (62,000 questionnaires despatched in Great Britain, with around 600 different questions asked). It is the key resource for understanding the detailed structure and performance of businesses across the UK, and is a large contributor of business information to the UK National Accounts.

ABS provides a number of high-level indicators of economic activity such as the total value of sales and work completed by businesses, the value of purchases of goods, materials and services, stocks, capital expenditure, and total employment costs.

The contribution of different industries to the overall value of economic activity can be assessed and, although estimates of employment from each company are not now collected at the same time, by combining ABS with employment information from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) it is also possible to get a measure of value added and costs per head to allow better comparison between industrial sectors of different sizes. The indicators in the ABS publications are collected and presented as monetary values or counts, for example, approximate Gross Value Added (aGVA), numbers of enterprises. They are essentially a snapshot of UK business activity, and can be used to understand the level of the contributions to the UK economy from different sectors of the economy at any one time.

The ABS replaced the Annual Business Inquiry, Part 2 (ABI/2) in 2009, although ABS data are available for 2008. The BRES replaced the Annual Business Inquiry, Part 1 (ABI/1) in 2009. The BRES data for 2009 onwards are held separately under UK Data Archive SN 7463. ABI/1 and ABI/2 data for 2008 and earlier are held under UK Data Archive SN 6644, Annual Respondents Database: Secure Access (ARD). Researchers who are applying for access to the ABS and who also require data prior to 2008 are recommended to also apply for the ARD data under SN 6644.

Linking to other business studies
These data contain Inter-Departmental Business Register reference numbers. These are anonymous but unique reference numbers assigned to business organisations. Their inclusion allows researchers to combine different business survey sources together. Researchers may consider applying for other business data to assist their research.

Latest edition information
For the ninth edition (January 2018), provisional data for 2016 have been added, along with regional data for 2008 to 2015. A variable catalogue covering the new regional data has also been added.

Main Topics:
The Annual Business Survey data include 3 files for each year of the survey:
  • 'dat'/'data' files, which contain the responses on a reporting unit basis from the businesses selected for the survey who provided returns to the ONS;
  • 'reporting unit universe' files, which are sampling files that include records on a reporting unit basis for all businesses, including those not selected by the ONS for the survey; include variables covering employment, turnover, Standard Industrial Classification codes, legal status, foreign ownership codes, etc.;
  • and 'local unit universe' files, which are sampling files that include records on a local unit basis for all businesses, including those not selected by the ONS for the survey; include variables covering geography, employment, Standard Industrial Classification codes, legal status, foreign ownershop codes, etc.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Time period: 2008 - 2016
Country: Great Britain
Spatial units: Countries
Wards (Electoral)
Government Office Regions
Westminster Parliamentary Constituencies
Postcode (Unit)
NUTS-I Areas
NUTS-V Areas
Local Authority Districts
Observation units: Institutions/organisations
Kind of data: Alpha/numeric data
Individual (micro) level
Universe: National
Businesses in Great Britain registered for VAT and/or PAYE in 2008-2016.
Time dimensions: Repeated cross-sectional study
Sampling procedures: One-stage stratified or systematic random sample
all large businesses surveyed; subsets of medium and small businesses sampled; survey population stratified by SIC(2007), employment and country
Number of units: Approximately 47,000 - 49,000 businesses
Method of data collection: Postal survey
Weighting: Weighting used. See documentation for details

Thesaurus search on keywords

Administrative and access information

Date of release:
First edition: 13 February 2014
Latest edition: 17 January 2018 (9th Edition)
Copyright: Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland
Access conditions: Registration is required and standard conditions of use apply. The depositor may be informed about usage. Controlled data requirements and conditions also apply. Further information is available from Access Secure Lab.

In addition, the Service is required to request explicit permission from the data owner prior to providing the researcher with access to the data

Please note:
Since these data are more sensitive and/or pose a higher risk of disclosure than data made available under the standard End User Licence, they are not available for download but may be accessed through our Secure Lab. Access requires: ONS Accredited Researcher status (including the requirement to attend and pass the Safe User of Research data Environments (SURE) training course); submission of a project proposal; and completion of a Secure Access User Agreement. This is to ensure that the guarantee of confidentiality given to survey respondents is protected. Users are required to read and follow the Microdata Handling and Security: Guide to Good Practice.

To apply for access, users should use the Download/Order link on this page and will be directed to the relevant forms as part of the ordering process.

Availability: UK Data Service
Contact: Get in touch


Title File Name Size (KB)
ABS: Regional Variable Catalogue, 2008-2015 7451_abs_regional_vc.xls 82
ABS: Variable Catalogue, 2008-2014 7451_abs_variable_catalogue.xls 141
ABS: Question Codes and Variable Derivations, 2006-2014 7451_question_codes_and_derivations_2014.xlsx 168
ABS: Guidance and Methodology Information 7451_guidance_and_methodology.pdf 2772
ABS: Latest ONS Publications 7451_latest_ons_publications.pdf 3065
ABS: Metadata Information 7451_metadata_information.pdf 1520
ABS: Questionnaires, 2008 7451_questionnaires_2008.pdf 1917
ABS: Questionnaires, 2009 7451_questionnaires_2009.pdf 1957
ABS: Questionnaires, 2010 7451_questionnaires_2010.pdf 2992
ABS: Questionnaires, 2011 7451_questionnaires_2011.pdf 3275
ABS: Questionnaires, 2012 7451_questionnaires_2012.pdf 3006
ABS: Questionnaires, 2013 7451_questionnaires_2013.pdf 2868
ABS: Microdata User Guide 7451_short_user_guide_to_abs_micro-data.pdf 336
ABS: Technical Reports 7451_technical_reports.pdf 2239
UK Data Archive Data Dictionary -2008-2016 7451_ukda_data_dictionary_2008_2016.pdf 1831
UK Data Archive Data Dictionary - Regional Data Files 7451_ukda_data_dictionary_regional.pdf 803
Study information and citation UKDA_Study_7451_Information.htm 6
READ File read7451.htm 11


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