Quarterly registrations of new businesses and declarations of bankruptcies - statistics
Data released on 17 November 2021
Planned update: February 2022
In the third quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted registrations of businesses decreased by 3.4 % in the EU and by 4.4 % in the euro area, compared with the second quarter of 2021.
In the third quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted declarations of bankruptcies decreased by 1.3 % in the EU and by 1.8 % in the euro area, compared with the second quarter of 2021.
This article presents data on the number of new business registrations and the number of bankruptcy declarations in the European Union (EU) and in the euro area (EA) until and including the third quarter of 2021. The data is based on the absolute number of registrations and bankruptcies sent to Eurostat by EU Member States on a voluntary basis until the fourth quarter of 2020 and on a mandatory basis since the first quarter of 2021. The tables provide a complete picture of the available data.
The data transmitted for the third quarter of 2021 is a legally-binding requirement for the variables: registrations of businesses and declarations of bankruptcies under the European Business Statistics (EBS) Regulation. The voluntary nature of the data collection until the end of 2020 and the limited length of the current time series does not allow for the application of seasonal adjustment in full scale and some further adjustment can be expected when longer time series become available. Any conclusions about the evolution of registrations of businesses and bankruptcy declarations in the EU Member States and euro area need to be made with caution.
Quarterly comparison in the EU and euro area
The number of registrations of new businesses has generally increased in the EU since 2015 until the end of 2019. The trend changed with a drop in the first and second quarters of 2020, to recover again in the third quarter of 2020. There was a slight decrease in the fourth quarter of 2020 and in the first quarter of 2021. The number of registrations increased again in the second quarter of 2021 and decreased in the third quarter. In general, the 2021 business registration levels are slightly higher than in 2019 and before that (Figure 1).
Regarding the number of declarations of bankruptcies, there has been a downward trend between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2017, then turning mainly upwards until the third quarter of 2019. There were considerable decreases in the first and second quarters of 2020. The decrease in bankruptcies, observed in many Member States in the first two quarters of 2020, can be explained by the government measures supporting businesses during the beginning of the COVID crisis which allowed the businesses to avoid declaring bankruptcy. After that the number of bankruptcy declarations increased for three consecutive quarters while it decreased again in the second and third quarter of 2021. The levels of the bankruptcy declarations in 2021 are still far below the pre-crisis 2019 values (Figure 2).
In the third quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of registrations of businesses was down by 3.4 % in the EU and by 4.4 % in the euro area, compared with the second quarter of 2021. In the second quarter of 2021, the number of registrations of businesses was up by 5.6 % in the EU and up by 6.8 % in the euro area, compared with the first quarter of 2021 (Figure 3).
In the third quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of declarations of bankruptcies decreased by 1.3 % in the EU and by 1.8 % in the euro area, compared with the second quarter of 2021. In the second quarter of 2021, the declarations of bankruptcies decreased by 8.7 % in the EU and by 2.9 % in the euro area when comparing with the first quarter of 2021 (Figure 4).
Quarterly comparison by Member State
Comparing the third quarter of 2021 with the second quarter of 2021, among Member States for which data are available, the largest increases in the registrations of new businesses were observed in Romania (+10.9 %), the Netherlands (+7.4 %) and Portugal (+4.2 %). The largest decreases were observed in Ireland (-63.7 %), Lithuania (-17.4 %) and Latvia (-7.2 %) (Table 1).
Comparing the third quarter of 2021 with the second quarter of 2021, among Member States for which data are available, the largest decreases in the number of declarations of bankruptcies were found in Estonia (-31.6 %), Portugal (-12.9 %) and the Netherlands (-12.7 %). The highest increases in bankruptcy declarations were observed in Romania (+25.2 %), Lithuania (+16.4 %) and Slovakia (+12.3 %) (Table 2).
Quarterly comparison by activity
For most sectors of the economy the number of registrations of new businesses was generally on an upward trend from 2015 to 2019, for example in industry, construction, transport, accommodation and food services, financial and insurance activities, information and communication. Between 2015 and 2019, only the trade sector did not show an increase in the number of registrations. The number of new registrations dropped sharply in the whole economy in the first and second quarters of 2020, and started recovering again in the third quarter of 2020.
In the first three quarters of 2021 there were considerably more registrations than before the COVID-crisis in transport and in information and communication, slightly more in financial and insurance services and in trade. In accommodation and food services less businesses were registered than in 2019 and before (Figure 5).
For the whole of the economy (industry, construction, market services), the number of declarations of bankruptcies showed a downward trend in 2015 and 2016, and turned upwards from the first quarter of 2017 until the last quarter of 2019. After a decrease in the first two quarters of 2020, the declarations of bankruptcies increased again in the third and fourth quarters of 2020 for most sectors of the economy (except for industry in particular). In the first quarter of 2021, the declarations of bankruptcies increased for all sectors of the economy.
In the second quarter of 2021, the number of bankruptcy declarations decreased for all sectors of the economy. The most significant decreases were in the transport sector, in the accommodation and food services and in industry.
In the third quarter of 2021, the number of bankruptcy declarations continued to decrease in transport, in the accommodation and food services, in trade and in information and communication. At the same time, the bankruptcy declarations increased in construction but also in finance and insurance and slightly industry (Figure 6).
Source data for tables and graphs
This is the third quarterly publication (following the May and August 2021 editions) covered by the mandatory data collection and transmission on quarterly business registrations and bankruptcy declarations under the EBS Regulation. The article also builds upon the three quarterly editions before 2021 that were based on experimental statistics. The historical data from Q1 2015 to Q4 2020 remains voluntary.
The data are also available in Eurostat's reference database.
Methodology and definitions; differences between quarterly and annual business demography data
Registrations on new businesses: The number of entered legal units in the registration register at any time during the reference quarter Q, according to the respective administrative or legal procedure. Registrations is an early indicator to measure business intentions. In every country, administrative rules of registrations differ, so the quarterly data are presented as an index series to improve comparability.
Registrations cannot be directly compared with enterprise births. Registrations of businesses are part of administrative procedures, while annual data on enterprise births are based on the start-up of business activity in terms of having turnover, employment or investment. The registration of a legal unit can be considered as a declaration of intent but does not necessarily mean it continues as a business activity in line with annual business demography concept. Registration data are not based on the enterprise demography characteristics 'date of commencement of activities' but rather on the 'date of registration' that is not necessarily the same.
The statistical unit in annual business demography statistics on births is the enterprise, while quarterly data on registrations refer to legal units (several legal units can constitute one enterprise, a registration of a new legal unit therefore does not necessarily mean the birth of a new enterprise). In some countries the coverage of legal forms or of NACE activities in quarterly registrations compared to annual births in business demography may differ. Annual business demography may have a threshold with respect to turnover in order to be included in the statistics concerned. Registrations and births may also be recorded in different reference periods or years. Due to the methodological differences, there is no direct comparability to annual business demography statistics on births of enterprises.
Bankruptcies: The number of legal units that have started the procedure of being declared bankrupt, by issuing a court declaration, at any time during the reference quarter Q (this declaration is often provisional and does not always mean cessation of an activity).
The bankruptcies indicator is an early sign to measure the sentiment in business environment. Quarterly statistics on bankruptcies are frequently different from annual business demography statistics on deaths of enterprises, because they cover deaths of enterprises due to bankruptcies, as well as other reasons. Bankruptcies that were filed do not necessarily mean closing of the business. Even if an enterprise has declared bankruptcy, it does not always mean that it ceases all activity when it enters into bankruptcy procedure. In order to be recorded as an enterprise death in annual business demography typically all production factors have been dissolved.
There are several methodological differences between the concepts of bankruptcies and enterprise deaths. Quarterly business demography data on bankruptcies are based on legal units, while annual business demography data on deaths is based on the statistical unit enterprise. Moreover, in some countries self-employed persons are rarely subject to bankruptcy procedure. There may also be significant differences between countries with respect to bankruptcy laws. In some countries, when a business declares itself bankrupt, it means that it has to cease immediately all activities whereas in other countries, they can continue to trade under a certain operation control. Some businesses declaring themselves bankrupt may therefore eventually recover, and would therefore not be considered as an enterprise death. The proportion of bankruptcy procedures that finally end up as an enterprise death varies therefore across countries depending on the bankruptcy laws. In addition, minimum thresholds of e.g. turnover may apply to annual business demography data, but not necessarily to quarterly data on bankruptcies.
To conclude, the scope and contents of annual business demography statistics on deaths of enterprises may differ considerably from quarterly data on bankruptcies and the levels of these two statistics may therefore vary considerably. In general, bankruptcies represent only a fraction of all enterprise deaths; they cannot be directly compared with annual business demography data on deaths of enterprises.
Respective strengths of quarterly and annual data: The quarterly data on registrations and bankruptcies reflect the intention of a business to start economic activities or to close down activities. The annual data reflect the economic reality in terms of enterprises having turnover, employment or investment (births) or the dissolution of them (deaths).
Calculation of indexes and EU aggregates
The available national indices are calculated by dividing the absolute figures of each period by the average of the base year (2015). National absolute figures are not directly aggregated because of different legislations, administrative practices and economic structures of the Member States.
Some countries asked for their data not to be used for the estimation of the European aggregates due to the evolving national methodology of registering bankruptcy declarations.
The EU aggregates are calculated by weighting the national indices by the number of active enterprises, taken from structural business statistics of the reference year 2015. Even if the data of many EU countries are still missing, the estimates of the European aggregates are nevertheless based on more than 75 % of the total Europe (in terms of weights). Missing data of the countries that have provided data at least for the period 2015 – 2019 have been estimated using an ARIMA forecast in JDemetra+ software v. 2.2.2. Countries that have not provided data for the year 2015 have been excluded from the EU aggregates.
In this publication, the seasonally adjusted EU series are calculated indirectly by calculating the weighted average of the available seasonally adjusted national indices.
Monitoring registrations and bankruptcies on a quarterly basis is useful as it provides more up-to-date and frequent information on the economic environment for businesses than the traditional annual business demography statistics. In particular for 2020 and 2021, quarterly data is very helpful to track better the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly important for policy makers when policy responses are needed due to business cycle developments in the current context.
The data on the absolute number of registrations of new businesses and bankruptcies, for the first, second and third quarters of 2021, were provided by the national statistical institutes of the EU Member States, on a mandatory basis in accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 2019/2152 on European business statistics.
Direct access to
- Business registration and bankruptcy index (sts_rb)
- Regulation (EU) No 2019/2152 on European business statistics
- Summaries of EU legislation: European business statistics
- Regulation (EU) No 2020/1197 Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1197 of 30 July 2020 laying down technical specifications and arrangements pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2019/2152 of the European Parliament and of the Council on European business statistics.