The Annual Business Survey (ABS)
The Annual Business Survey (ABS) is the largest business survey conducted by the ONS in terms of the number of respondents and variables it covers. 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.
There are 51 different questionnaires for the ABS, made up of 34 ‘short’ and 17 ‘long’ versions with the short requesting totals, and the corresponding long questionnaire asking for more detailed breakdowns. As a result the ABS contains variables relating to around 600 questions and 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 also be assessed through a measure of value added.
The ABS is a sample-based annual survey of businesses in the UK covering the Production, Construction, Distribution and Service industries. Every year, ABS questionnaires are sent by the 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. Sampling stratification is based on SIC (2007), employment and country; all large businesses are surveyed along with subsets of medium and small businesses. As a compulsory survey response rates of 74% are anticipated by the end of the survey year; responses are weighted to the full population of firms on the IDBR.
The ABS replaced the Annual Business Inquiry, Part 2 (ABI/2) in 2009. The historical annual ABI datasets are available under the Annual Respondents Database.
The ABS data include 3 files for each year of the survey:
• 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; to include variables covering employment, turnover, Standard Industrial Classification codes, legal status, foreign ownership codes
• ‘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; to include variables covering geography, employment, Standard Industrial Classification codes, legal status, foreign ownership codes.