Quarterly registrations of new businesses and declarations of bankruptcies - statistics

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Data released on 25 August 2021

Planned update: 17 November 2021

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Highlights


In the second quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted registrations of businesses increased by 5.3 % in the EU and by 6.6 % in the euro area, compared with the first quarter of 2021.

In the second quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted declarations of bankruptcies increased by 1.8 % in the EU and by 6.9 % in the euro area, compared with the first quarter of 2021.

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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 the second 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 second 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. Up to the fourth quarter of 2020, the statistics covered in this article are classified as experimental statistics. 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.

Full article

Quarterly comparison in the EU and euro area

Generally, the number of registrations of new businesses has increased in the EU since 2015 until the end of 2019. The trend was interrupted 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. The number of registrations showed then a very slight increase in the first quarter of 2021 and a more noticeable increase in the second quarter of 2021 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Registrations of businesses, EU (available countries), Q1 2015 to Q2 2021 (2015=100)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

As to 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 number of declarations of bankruptcies then followed an upward trend since the third quarter of 2020, which also continued in the second quarter of 2021 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Declarations of bankruptcies, EU (available countries), Q1 2015 to Q2 2021 (2015=100)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

In the second quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of registrations of businesses was up by 5.3 % in the EU and by 6.6 % in the euro area, compared with the first quarter of 2021. In the first quarter of 2021, the number of registrations of businesses was up by 0.1 % in the EU while it was down by 0.5 % in the euro area, compared with the fourth quarter of 2020 (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Registrations of businesses (seasonally adjusted), Q1 2018 to Q2 2021 (% change compared with the previous quarter)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

In the second quarter of 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of declarations of bankruptcies increased by 1.8 % in the EU and by 6.9 % in the euro area, compared with the first quarter of 2021. In the first quarter of 2021, the declarations of bankruptcies increased by 1.7 % in the EU while they decreased by 1.2 % in the euro area when comparing with the fourth quarter of 2020 (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Bankruptcy declarations of businesses (seasonally adjusted), Q1 2018 to Q2 2021 (% change compared with the previous quarter)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

Quarterly comparison by Member State

Comparing the second quarter of 2021 with the first quarter of 2021, among Member States for which data are available, the largest increases in the registrations of new businesses were observed in Ireland (+213.6 %), Portugal (+36.1 %) and Slovakia (+19.7 %). The largest decreases were observed in Bulgaria, Lithuania (both -4.1 %) and Romania (-3.5 %) (Table 1).

Table 1: Registrations of businesses (seasonally adjusted) Q1 2018 to Q2 2021 (% change compared with the previous quarter)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

Comparing the second quarter of 2021 with the first quarter of 2021, among Member States for which data are available, the largest decreases in the number of declarations of bankruptcies were found in Romania (-35.5 %), Poland (-30.8 %) and the Netherlands (-6.3 %). The highest increases in bankruptcy declarations were observed in Lithuania (+21.5 %), Slovakia (+20.3 %) and Estonia (+19.1 %) (Table 2).

The decrease in bankruptcies, observed in many Member States in particular in the first two quarters of 2020 and also in the first quarter of 2021, can be explained by the government measures supporting businesses during the crisis which allowed the businesses to avoid declaring bankruptcy.

Table 2: Bankruptcy declarations of businesses (seasonally adjusted) Q1 2018 to Q2 2021 (% change compared with the previous quarter)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

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 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 (Figure 5).

In the first and the second quarters of 2021, the number of registrations of new businesses increased particularly in transport, information and communication, financial and insurance activities, while a decrease was observed in accommodation and food services.

Figure 5: Registrations of businesses by activity (seasonally adjusted), Q1 2015 to Q2 2021 (2015=100)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

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 and also the first quarter of 2021 for most sectors of the economy. In the second quarter of 2021 the number of bankruptcy declarations decreased in a number of sectors. The most significant decreases were in the transport sector, in accommodation and food services and trade. At the same time, the bankruptcy declarations rose in construction and information and communication services (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Declarations of bankruptcies of businesses by activity (seasonally adjusted), Q1 2015 to Q2 2021 (2015=100)
Source: Eurostat (sts_rb_q)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

This is the second quarterly publication (following the May 2021 edition) 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.

Context

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, and in particular for 2020 and 2021, on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly important for policy makers when 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 and second 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.

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