Structural business statistics (sbs)

Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency: Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

Eurostat metadata
Reference metadata
1. Contact
2. Metadata update
3. Statistical presentation
4. Unit of measure
5. Reference Period
6. Institutional Mandate
7. Confidentiality
8. Release policy
9. Frequency of dissemination
10. Accessibility and clarity
11. Quality management
12. Relevance
13. Accuracy
14. Timeliness and punctuality
15. Coherence and comparability
16. Cost and Burden
17. Data revision
18. Statistical processing
19. Comment
Related Metadata
Annexes (including footnotes)
National metadata

For any question on data and metadata, please contact: EUROPEAN STATISTICAL DATA SUPPORT


1. Contact Top
1.1. Contact organisation

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

1.2. Contact organisation unit

G2: Structural business statistics and global value chains

1.5. Contact mail address

2920 Luxembourg LUXEMBOURG

2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 30/03/2020
2.2. Metadata last posted 30/03/2020
2.3. Metadata last update 27/11/2020

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

Structural business statistics (SBS) describes the structure, conduct and performance of economic activities, down to the most detailed activity level (several hundred economic sectors).

SBS are transmitted annually by the EU Member States on the basis of a legal obligation from 1995 onwards.  

SBS covers all activities of the business economy with the exception of agricultural activities and personal services and the data are provided by all EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland, some candidate and potential candidate countries. The data are collected by domain of activity (annex) : Annex I - Services, Annex II - Industry, Annex III - Trade and Annex IV- Constructions and by datasets. Each annex contains several datasets as indicated in the SBS Regulation.

The majority of the data is collected by National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) by means of statistical surveys, business registers or from various administrative sources. Regulatory or controlling national offices for financial institutions or central banks often provide the information required for the financial sector (NACE Rev 2 Section K / NACE Rev 1.1 Section J).

Member States apply various statistical methods, according to the data source, such as grossing up, model based estimation or different forms of imputation, to ensure the quality of SBSs produced.

Main characteristics (variables) of the SBS data category:

  • Business Demographic variables (e.g. Number of enterprises)
  • "Output related" variables (e.g. Turnover, Value added)
  • "Input related" variables: labour input (e.g. Employment, Hours worked); goods and services input (e.g. Total of purchases); capital input (e.g. Material investments)

All SBS characteristics are published on Eurostat’s website by tables and an example of the existent tables is presented below:

  • Annual enterprise statistics: Characteristics collected are published by country and detailed on NACE Rev 2 and NACE Rev 1.1 class level (4-digits). Some classes or groups in 'services' section have been aggregated.
  • Annual enterprise statistics broken down by size classes: Characteristics are published by country and detailed down to NACE Rev 2 and NACE Rev 1.1 group level (3-digits) and employment size class. For trade (NACE Rev 2 and NACE Rev 1.1 Section G) a supplementary breakdown by turnover size class is available.
  • Annual regional statistics: Four characteristics are published by NUTS-2 country region and detailed on NACE Rev 2 and NACE Rev 1.1 division level (2-digits) (but to group level (3-digits) for the trade section).

More information on the contents of different tables: the detail level and breakdowns required starting with the reference year 2008 is defined in Commission Regulation N° 251/2009. For previous reference years it is included in Commission Regulations (EC) N° 2701/98 and amended by Commission Regulation N°1614/2002 and Commission Regulation N°1669/2003.

Several important derived indicators are generated in the form of ratios of certain monetary characteristics or per head values. A list with the available derived indicators is available below in the Annex.

3.2. Classification system

Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE): NACE Rev.1 was used until 2001, NACE Rev. 1.1 since 2002, and NACE Rev 2 is used from 2008 onwards.  Key data were double reported in NACE Rev.1.1 and NACE Rev.2 for 2008. From 2009 onwards, only NACE Rev.2 data are available.

The regional breakdown of the EU Member States is based on the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS).

The product breakdown is based on the Classification of Products by Activity (CPA) as stated in the Regulation establishing CPA 2008

Country codes and names are based on the inter-institutional style guide.

3.3. Coverage - sector

The SBS coverage was limited to Sections C to K of NACE Rev.1.1 until 2007. Starting from the reference year 2008 data is available for Sections B to N and Division S95 of NACE Rev.2.

NACE Rev.2 Section K and NACE Rev.1.1. Section J is only covered partially by the data on insurance services, credit institutions and pension funds (separate metadata files have been compiled)

Double reported data in NACE Rev.1.1 for the reference year 2008 is available from the second quarter of 2011.

National Statistical Institutes have provided on a voluntary basis backcasted NACE Rev.2 data for reference years 2005-2007. For countries for which these data were not provided, Eurostat has made estimates based on the conversion of the available NACE Rev.1.1 data. Some activities could not be estimated as they were not covered in the NACE Rev.1.1 data collection. Please note that for the size class data some NACE Rev.2 divisions need to be taken together, especially in the services sector, as in NACE Rev.1.1. there were fewer details available. Size class data on NACE Rev.2 Section M excludes M75 veterinary activities.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

Structural Business Statistics (SBS) describe the economy through the observation of the activity of units engaged in an economic activity. They answer such questions as: how much wealth is created in an activity? How many work forces are needed to create this wealth? How is this activity developing? Is this activity participating in the growth of the economy? How much investments are realized in this activity?

The SBS characteristics are defined in Commission Regulation N° 250/2009. This regulation covers all business demographic, employment and monetary characteristics as well as indicators consisting of ratios of monetary characteristics or per head values.

Characteristics and indicators are  coded by a 5 digit number. The first two digits indicate the set the characteristics belong to. Some main characteristics collected in the framework of the structural business statistics are: 

  • Business Demographic variables: (set of characteristics coded as 11 xx x)

-  number of enterprises: a count of the number of enterprises active during at least a part of the reference period.

- number of local units: a count of the number of local units active during at least a part of the reference period.


  • "Input related" variables

- Labour inputs (coded as 16 xx x)

o Number of persons employed is defined as the total number of persons who work in the observation unit (inclusive of working proprietors, partners working regularly in the unit and unpaid family workers), as well as persons who work outside the unit who belong to it and are paid by it (e.g. sales representatives, delivery personnel, repair and maintenance teams). It excludes manpower supplied to the unit by other enterprises, persons carrying out repair and maintenance work in the enquiry unit on behalf of other enterprises, as well as those on compulsory military service.

o Number of employees is defined as those persons who work for an employer and who have a contract of employment and receive compensation in the form of wages, salaries, fees, gratuities, piecework pay or remuneration in kind. A worker from an employment agency is considered to be an employee of that temporary employment agency and not of the unit (customer) in which they work.

- Cost of inputs (coded as 13 xx x)

o Total purchases of goods and services include the value of all goods and services purchased during the accounting period for resale or consumption in the production process, excluding capital goods (the consumption of which is registered as consumption of fixed capital).

o Personnel costs are defined as the total remuneration, in cash or in kind, payable by an employer to an employee (regular and temporary employees as well as home workers) in return for work done by the latter during the reference period. Personnel costs also include taxes and employees' social security contributions retained by the unit as well as the employer's compulsory and voluntary social contributions. Personnel costs are made up of wages and salaries and employers' social security costs

- Capital input (coded as 15 xx x)

o Gross investment in tangible goods is defined as investment during the reference period in all tangible goods. Included are new and existing tangible capital goods, whether bought from third parties or produced for own use (i.e. Capitalised production of tangible capital goods), having a useful life of more than one year including non-produced tangible goods such as land. Investments in intangible and financial assets are excluded.


  • "Output related" variables: (coded as 12 xx x)

o Turnover comprises the totals invoiced by the observation unit during the reference period, and this corresponds to market sales of goods or services supplied to third parties; it includes all duties and taxes on the goods or services invoiced by the unit with the exception of the VAT invoiced by the unit to its customer and other similar deductible taxes directly linked to turnover; it also includes all other charges (transport, packaging, etc.) passed on to the customer. Price reductions, rebates and discounts as well as the value of returned packing must be deducted.

o Production value measures the amount actually produced by the unit, based on sales, including changes in stocks and the resale of goods and services. The production value is defined as turnover, plus or minus the changes in stocks of finished products, work in progress and goods and services purchased for resale, minus the purchases of goods and services for resale, plus capitalised production, plus other operating income (excluding subsidies). Income and expenditure classified as financial or extra-ordinary in company accounts is excluded from production value.

o Value added at factor costs is the gross income from operating activities after adjusting for operating subsidies and indirect taxes. Value adjustments (such as depreciation) are not subtracted.

SBS consists of a horizontal module (Annex I), including a limited set of basic statistics for all market activities. Seven sector-specific annexes cover a more extended list of sector-specific characteristics. The sector-specific annexes are: industry (Annex II), distributive trades (Annex III), construction (Annex IV), insurance services (Annex V), credit institutions (Annex VI), pension funds (Annex VII) and business services (Annex VIII). Annex IX covers business demography statistics for all market activities. The detailed overview of the availability of characteristics by sector is found in Commission Regulation N° 251/2009 for data starting with the reference year 2008 and in Commission Regulation No 2701/98. For example, annex II for industry includes a breakdown of the gross investment in tangible goods into categories of goods, more detail regarding stocks, costs of energy consumption, payments for agency workers, number of part-time workers and number of hours worked by employees. A breakdown of the turnover between industrial activity, construction, trade and services is also collected on a multi-annual basis.

3.5. Statistical unit

National data and data broken down by size class of number of persons employed both refer to enterprises.

The enterprise is the smallest combination of legal units that is an organisational unit producing goods or services, which benefits from a certain degree of autonomy in decision-making, especially for the allocation of its current resources. An enterprise carries out one or more activities at one or more locations. An enterprise may be a sole legal unit.

Regional data refer to local units.

The local unit is an enterprise or part thereof (e.g. a workshop, factory, warehouse, office, mine or depot) situated in a geographically identified place. At or from this place economic activity is carried out for which - save for certain exceptions - one or more persons work (even if only part-time) for one and the same enterprise.

The statistical unit used to compile SBS statistics is the ‘enterprise’. Up until reference year 2018, many Member States used the ‘legal unit’ as a proxy for the ‘enterprise’. With the transmission of data for reference year 2018, most Member States have fully implemented the statistical unit ‘enterprise’ in the SBS domain in accordance with Regulation 696/93. The transition from the ‘legal unit’ to the ‘enterprise’ may has caused breaks in the series of the SBS characteristics, for example an enterprises consisting of several legal unit will only be counted once and intraflows between the legal units within the enterprise will be eliminated (consolidated) in SBS statistics. Below find a list of Member States where implementation of Regulation 696/93 resulted in a break in series.


Reference year (RY)












RY2017, RY2018































For detailed information on statistical units, please see Council Regulation (EEC) No 696/93 of 15 March 1993 on the statistical units for the observation and analysis of the production system in the Community (Official Journal of the European Communities No L 076, 30/03/1993, p. 1), Section III of 15.03.1993 on the statistical units for the observation and analysis of the production system in the Community.

3.6. Statistical population

The SBS regulation covers NACE Rev.2 Sections B to N and Group S95 (NACE Rev.1.1 sections C to K), which broadly speaking covers Market activities.

3.7. Reference area

The data category covers EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. some EU Candidate countries and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

3.8. Coverage - Time

1995 is the first reference year for SBS implementation and the period between 1995 till 1998 was a transitional period for SBS implementation.

The data set is more complete and comparable starting from reference year 1999. European aggregates are available for most important characteristics and tables from reference year 1999 onwards.

3.9. Base period

Not applicable.

4. Unit of measure Top
  • Monetary data are expressed in millions of €. See annex at the bottom of the page for annual average exchange rates vis-à-vis the euro.
  • Per head values are expressed in thousands of € per head.
  • Per hours values are expressed in € per hour.
  • Ratios of monetary variables are expressed in percentages.

Employment variables are expressed in units.

5. Reference Period Top

SBS data refer to the calendar year and in most cases corresponds to the fiscal year.

6. Institutional Mandate Top
6.1. Institutional Mandate - legal acts and other agreements

Year 1995 was the first year for the implementation of the Council Regulation No 58/97 (SBS Regulation).

The Council Regulation No 58/97 has been amended three times: by Council Regulation No 410/98, Commission Regulation No 1614/2002 and European Parliament and Council Regulation No 2056/2002. As a new amendment of the basic Regulation it was decided to recast the Regulation No 58/97 in order to obtain a new "clean" legal text. The European Parliament and Council Regulation No 295/2008  was adopted on 14/02/2008 and the provisions of this Regulation are applicable from the reference year 2008.

 An overview is also found in the background section of the dedicated website. More recent legislative text can be retrieved from the EuroLex server. The 'background' section on the dedicated website also contains the links to the legislation applicable.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Eurostat makes available all non-confidential and sufficiently reliable data on its dissemination website.

7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 on European statistics (recital 24 and Article 20(4)) of 11 March 2009 (OJ L 87, p. 164), stipulates the need to establish common principles and guidelines ensuring the confidentiality of data used for the production of European statistics and the access to those confidential data with due account for technical developments and the requirements of users in a democratic society.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

Confidentiality - if data are of truly confidential nature according to the above mentioned regulation, they have to be flagged confidential, and they will not be published by Eurostat.

Eurostat makes available all non-confidential data on its dissemination website.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

Preliminary data are published one year after the end of the reference year (T+12)

Final data are published two years after the end of the reference year (T+22)

EU aggregates: The first version of EU aggregates is published early after the final data are published; The second version is available six months after the first version.

8.2. Release calendar access

Not available.

8.3. Release policy - user access

In line with the Community legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see item 10 - 'Accessibility and clarity' in the SBS ESMS file) respecting professional independence and in an objective, professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably. The detailed arrangements are governed by the Eurostat protocol on impartial access to Eurostat data for users.

9. Frequency of dissemination Top

Annual, however, some specific sector information is available only on a multi-yearly basis.

10. Accessibility and clarity Top
10.1. Dissemination format - News release

News releases on-line

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

Annually: Eurostat regional yearbook 2017

Frequently: Statistics Explained

On the Eurostat Website dedicated to Business economy by sector - NACE Rev. 2

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Please consult free data on-line or refer to contact details.

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

Not applicable.

10.5. Dissemination format - other

Internet address:

10.6. Documentation on methodology

Recent and detailed information is available on the statistical system and the SBS survey strategy of individual EU Member States (MS), European Economic Area countries (IS, NO, CH) Iceland, Norway and Switzerland or some EU Candidate countries (CC), Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10.7. Quality management - documentation

National methodology reports and some yearly quality reports, referring to 1998-2005, of MS and NO are available on Ramon (Eurostat's Metadata Server)

Addtionally the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the Regulation (EC) No 295/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning structural business statistics from 2014 is available.  

11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

As from the reference year 2008 Member States have been providing Eurostat with regular (annual) quality reports covering most of the categories of the ESS Standard for Quality Reports. Eurostat prepares a summary quality reports which is discussed in a yearly meeting with Member States.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

According to the information available from the quality reports, the data providers have applied the recommendations available in the EU Regulations.

More information is available in the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the SBS Regulation.   

12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

The main users of SBS data, the Commission policy DGs, are consulted in order to identify unfulfilled user needs.

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

An indicator of the usefulness of SBSs is the number of downloads from Eurostat’s website, which was of more than 100000 downloads for 2010 reference year. 

User comments were also analysed and in general they are happy with the SBS data, except for the timeliness of the data which is available two years after the end of the reference period.

12.3. Completeness

As the period 1995-1998 corresponds to a transitional period in SBS implementation, the data set is more complete starting from reference year 1999. Thus, European aggregates are available for most important variables and tables from reference year 1999 onwards.

From 2008 onwards, overall 95% of the data required by the SBS Regulation Annexes 1 to 4 was provided.  All non-confidential data of sufficient quality has been published.

13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

The SBS Regulation is an output-oriented Regulation, leaving data providers the choice of data sources. In most countries a combination of survey and administrative data is used. It is very hard to assess the accuracy of the administrative data. No quantitative indicator is available.

13.2. Sampling error

For the data covered by survey the coefficients of variation were transmitted by the countries. 

Eurostat has calculated aggregated EU coefficients of variation based on the national coefficients of variation for six characteristics and for all sectors at NACE Rev.2 one-digit level (Section).

The overall EU coefficients of variation, for the six characteristics are available in the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council from 2014. Data of individual countries cannot be published.

13.3. Non-sampling error

The unit non-response and item non-response are provided by EEA Member States, but cannot be disseminated.

14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

Preliminary data are normally collected within 10 months after the end of the reference year and the most definitive data within two years. European aggregates (final data only) may be released with an additional time-lag.

14.2. Punctuality

Final data ought to be sent to Eurostat 18 months after the end of the reference period (T). Preliminary data should be sent to Eurostat 10 months after the end of the reference period. Punctuality has improved over time.  

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

Some methodological factors that limit the comparisons across countries can be found in the Annex at the bottom of the page.

15.2. Comparability - over time

Statistics on services, industry, trade and construction are comparable over time and across countries only from reference year 2005 onwards, as some countries implemented changes in methodology and scope before that year. The implementation of the new classification of activities (NACE Rev.2) in 2008 prevents any time series being carried across that year.

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

Non confidential national and EU data are released at the finest possible level of detail. Yet the general principle "the higher the level of aggregation (the more aggregated the data), the better the quality" applies to SBS. Detailed data for small countries have to be used with a certain caution.

Data on Structural business statistics can be found in the following related domains:

Regional statistics, environmental protection expenditure statistics, research and development, labour cost statistics, labour force survey, European business trends, short-term statistics.

In these collections data similar to SBS can be found. It should be noted that methodological differences exist which can explain inconsistencies. Apparent inconsistencies between SBS data and the data from labour cost statistics, labour force survey and short term statistics have been examined.

The OECD also collects and disseminates enterprise statistics in its new Structural Business Statistics Database, containing the database known as SSIS (Structural Statistics for Industry and Services) and SEC (Statistics by Enterprise Size Class).In order to reduce the response burden on member countries and to harmonise SBS data collections between Eurostat and OECD, the OECD sources since 2004 data from Eurostat for EU countries (according to the terms of a "Memorandum of Understanding" signed by both organisations). Comparable data on other OECD countries is collected by the OECD and made available to Eurostat.

15.4. Coherence - internal

The internal consistency of the data (links between variables, coherence between data series,...) are checked by Eurostat before dissemination.

In between Eurostat releases, Member States may revise their figures; Eurostat publishes the new Member States' figures shortly after reception but does not recalculate the EU accounts until the next scheduled EU release (twice per year). Geographical coherence may thus be lost for a brief period. In turn, a certain stability of annual aggregates is assured.

16. Cost and Burden Top

Based on information collected from the data providers the burden on the economy due to SBS Annexes I - IV adds up to about €75 million for the whole Community. Efforts are being undertaken to reduce the burden.

17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Eurostat accepts the revision of definitive data. Whenever national data are revised, European aggregates are revised accordingly so that both data (at national and EU level) are synchronised.

17.2. Data revision - practice

Definitive data replace preliminary data as soon as they are available.

As far as the method used for the production of SBS preliminary data is concerned, most countries use auxiliary sources such as Short Terms Statistics combined with the latest available SBS data. The alternative is to gross up the sample at an early stage of the survey.

Definitive data are sometimes revised as well, e.g. further to the implementation of a new (and improved) survey strategy, the latest technique being used to revise old data.

18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

SBS data are generally collected by the National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) among enterprises.

The data are collected through statistical surveys, business register or administrative sources. The NSIs can use one or several of these sources, according to the survey strategy they have adopted, taking into account the costs, the quality and the response burden on enterprises. 

18.2. Frequency of data collection

Annual data are requested. Some series with mostly specialist information on a specific sector, which is burdensome to collect, are covered on a multi-annual basis.

18.3. Data collection

As far as statistical surveys are concerned, large businesses are completely enumerated whereas small businesses are usually sampled only.

Data are acquired by interviewing the sampled enterprises directly: by personal visits, telephone interviews, web interviews and self-administered questionnaires.

18.4. Data validation

At Eurostat level data is validated before publishing. A number of logical checks between different variables are performed and the consistency of data over time is checked as well.

18.5. Data compilation

The following European aggregates are available:

EU25 (European Union, 25 countries, from reference year 1999-2005)

EU27_2017 (European Union, 27 countries, starting from reference year 2005)

EU28 (European Union, 28 countries, starting from reference year 2011-2019)

EU27_2019 (European Union, 27 countries, starting from reference year 2011)

European aggregates are calculated and disseminated twice a year for most characteristics of the main series broken down by economic activity and for some characteristics of the series broken down by size class.

Whenever those aggregates do not rely on a full coverage, estimates can be published. In these cases such data are flagged with either one or some of following flags.

e:Estimated value (precise within ±1% unless also flagged 'u')

d: Values refer to rounded estimates based on non-confidential data. Note: difference between aggregates and components can be due to rounding.

u: Unreliable or uncertain data: (Estimation error from ±1% to ±5%)

Missing data are estimated for the purpose of the calculation of European aggregates only, these estimates are not released. Countries might send data with substantial delays to the regulation deadline. Occasionally, some characteristics or some NACE codes are missing. Eurostat would be unable to release European aggregates if these data were not estimated.

In order to protect confidential data at the national level rounding some of EU aggregates were rounded. This way the confidential data at national level can only be determined with a very high error margin, the EU aggregates are however still acceptably accurate. A consequence of this method to hide confidential national data is that the breakdown of the data for a certain activity level into more detailed activities does not correspond fully with the figure provided for this activity level.

Financial data used generally derive from accounting data.

18.6. Adjustment

Monetary characteristics of the different countries are converted to and/or rounded to millions of euro. 

19. Comment Top

Structural Business Statistics on the non-financial business economy have many characteristics in common. As such they are the backbone of a wider set of related statistics, covering also the financial sector (for which there are related characteristics) and several development programs existing for specific topics: see "Annex" at the bottom of the page.

Due to different revision policy for the European aggregates and the Member States' data, there may be a difference between the European aggregate and the appropriate sum of national data between updates.

Related metadata Top
bs_esms - Business services statistics

Annexes Top
Derived indicators_SBS_Annexes I to IV
Exchange rates from 1995 to 2016
Statistical sources