Short-term business statistics (STS) in brief

1. What do the short-term business statistics (STS) cover?

STS indices cover four major domains: industry, construction, trade and services. These activities are defined in relation to the statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE). STS indicators are published by Eurostat using the NACE Rev. 2 classification.

For STS, industry covers Sections B to E of NACE Rev. 2, i.e. mining and quarrying, manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply.

Construction covers Section F (total construction, building, civil engineering and residential and non-residential buildings).

Retail trade covers Division 47.

As for the services, activities covered relate to Divisions 45 and 46: wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, wholesale trade except of motor vehicles and motorcycles; Section H: transportation and storage; Section I: accommodation and food services; Section J: information and communication; Division 69: legal and accounting activities; Group 70.2: management consultancy activities; Division 71: architectural and engineering activities, technical testing and analysis; Division 73: advertising and market research; Division 74: other professional, scientific and technical activities; Division 80: security and investigation activities; Group 81.2: cleaning activities; and Division 82: office administrative, office support and other business support activities.

The indicators (see Table 1 below) do not cover all activities. For example, in the case of services, the turnover variable does not cover computer and business services, while the indicator for the number of persons employed is covered.

All features of transmission of short-term indicators to Eurostat, including coverage, are defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 1165/98, as amended by Regulation (EC) No 1158/2005 and the regulations implementing and amending these two instruments.

Table 1: Indicators covered by the STS Regulation, by domain or annex

Annex/domain List of indicators
A-Industry Production
Turnover, domestic turnover, non-domestic turnover
Number of persons employed, hours worked, gross wages and salaries
Producer prices, domestic producer prices, non-domestic producer prices
Import prices
B-Construction Production, production of buildings, production of civil engineering
Number of persons employed, hours worked, gross wages and salaries
Construction costs, material costs, wage costs
Building permits: number of dwellings, building permits: useful floor area in m2
C-Retail trade Turnover
Number of persons employed, hours worked, gross wages and salaries
Deflator of sales
D-Services Turnover
Number of persons employed, hours worked, gross wages and salaries
Producer prices

2. Why are STS indicators produced?

STS indicators are tools for formulating and monitoring the economic and monetary policy of the European Union and the euro area. They are generally supplied with a monthly frequency and cast light on recent developments in each Member State and in the European Union as a whole. STS data are in great demand for economic analysis in the European Commission and European Central Bank (ECB), national governments and central banks, companies and financial markets. STS indicators facilitate monitoring and decision-making and are also used in conjunction with other economic datasets, such as the national accounts (for example, gross domestic product).

3. What is the source of STS data?

Basically, STS data are derived from surveys of businesses. Use is also made of administrative data or other sources outside the national statistical systems.

Since the primary unit is the business or the production unit, preparing STS indicators involves maintaining business registers in the Member States.

Each Member State is obliged to transmit time-series relating to STS indicators to Eurostat, using a specified format. These data are compiled on the basis of elementary data and aggregated by the countries to take account of the national industrial structure. A large majority of the indicators are published both nationally and in the Eurostat database, when they are not subject to confidentiality rules (Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 ).

4. How is the comparability of data between Member States ensured?

The STS regulations lay down the scope of short-term indicators, their definition, their form, their reference period, their level of detail, the deadlines for transmission, and the date that series should start. The methodological framework and data harmonisation are ensured by applying methods and definitions specified both in the Commission regulations and in a methodological manual for short-term indicators.

Moreover, the great majority of definitions of short-term indicators in the STS Regulation are consistent with international definitions, including value added, price indices, etc.

Eurostat assesses the Member States' compliance with the STS Regulation twice a year.

5. Why do the national data published by Eurostat sometimes differ from the data published by the Member States or by other organisations (such as the OECD)?

The purpose of the STS Regulation is to harmonise the concepts used by the Member States. However, national requirements may lead the statistical institutes to calculate and publish nationally indicators with slightly different definitions.

The index values in the national publications may also differ from those in European publications due to the fact that some Member States apply a methodology of chaining certain indicators, or apply a different base year than the one used by Eurostat.

Within industry, the STS Regulation defines the main industrial groupings (MIGs) , which are intermediate goods, capital goods, durable and non-durable consumer goods and energy. These groupings are specific to Eurostat publications. Many countries apply the same groupings, while other countries and other organisations have adopted similar, but somewhat different definitions for groupings.

6. How are the European aggregates calculated?

The European indices are based on a weighted average of the countries' indices. The weights correspond to each Member State's share in the total for the European Union or the euro area in respect to each activity. The weighting variables differ from one indicator to another. Hence, for the index of industrial production, the weights are based on value added; for the indices of turnover and prices, the weights are based on turnover; for the indices of number of persons employed and hours worked, the weights are based on the number of persons employed and hours worked, respectively; finally, for the wages and salaries index, the weights are based on wages and salaries. The weights are established for a base year.

Certain weights are confidential within a specified activity and/or a Member State. However, the national indices still contribute to the European aggregates.

Member States are obliged to transmit data at a certain level of detail. If one or two of the lower levels are lacking, Eurostat aggregates the national data to produce an aggregate index for the Member State, provided that the lowest levels are available for 80 % of the weighted variables. The latest missing months are then estimated using an ARIMA model. The estimates contribute to the European aggregate.

For a given activity, Eurostat calculates European indices when available national data exceeds 60 % of the EU or euro area total weight. The missing countries data are estimated using an ARIMA model and are included in the estimates for European aggregates.

7. When are STS indicators disseminated?

The timetable for publishing STS indicators for a given calendar year is normally announced in the Euro-Indicators release calendar in November of the preceding year. It meets the deadlines laid down in the STS Regulation and also the timetable of the Principal European Economic Indicators. For example, the index of industrial production must be transmitted for most of the large European countries within one month and 10 calendar days following the end of the reference period (e.g. the January index must be transmitted before 10 March). Eurostat prepares a press release for publication of the European results a couple of days later.

8. Are the data revised?

Revisions may be caused by several factors: additional information, methodological changes, changes in the base year, corrections of errors, or re-estimation of the seasonal adjustment coefficients. The data transmitted by the Member States may be revised several months after their first transmission in order to integrate new data. Eurostat processes the national data received within 24 hours (one working day).

The policy of certain Member States is to revise their data for the last x months, while others do not revise the data and treat them as final as soon as they have been published. National data revision policies may also vary from one indicator to another.

The revision policy for short-term business statistics follows the general guidelines on revision policy approved by the European Statistical System Committee (ESSC):

• European aggregates are generally released and revised only once per month. This policy is applied for all Principal European economic indicators (PEEIs) and for the retail trade turnover indicator.

• Continuous revisions are applied for all STS labour input indicators (numbers of persons employed, hours worked, gross wages and salaries), for construction costs and construction prices and for the industrial turnover indicator.

• National data are revised whenever new information becomes available.

9. Where are the STS series to be found?

The time-series relating to short-term indicators are available on the Eurostat website, under the heading Industry, trade and services, in a database with more user-friendly tables for the most widely consulted indicators.

A dedicated section for short-term statistics brings together the latest press releases, and the data themselves, together with methodological information and links to STS regulations.

The time-series for short-term indicators published at European level are used by other organisations such as the OΕCD and the ECB. Many countries also have links to the EU short-term statistics on their national statistical office Internet sites.

10. How is an index to be read and interpreted?

An index measures trends in a time-series. In the case of short-term business statistics, the indices represent the movements in an indicator (for example, industrial production) between a base year and the current period. The index average is 100 for the base year. An index of 110 means that there has been a 10 % increase since the base period. An index of 90 means that there has been a 10 % decrease since the base period. Index movements may be expressed in index points (simply the difference between the two index levels) but it is more useful to express them as a percentage change. Index points are sensitive to the level of the index itself, while percentage changes are not.

11. What is the meaning of notes (c), (e), (s) and (p) in certain tables?

Pursuant to the STS Regulation, Member States must provide Eurostat with good quality data. However, the national data transmitted are sometimes the result of statistical estimates which may be revised or which were imperfect at the time of transmission. These values are indicated in the database: certain data are estimated values (e) or provisional values (p) or sometimes estimates made by Eurostat itself (s). Some data are confidential and replaced by (c); these figures are used by Eurostat in calculating the EU or euro area totals.

12. What is a seasonally adjusted series or a calendar adjusted series?

A seasonally adjusted series is a time-series from which the effects of regular seasonal influences have been removed. Seasonal effects usually reflect the influence of the seasons themselves or social conventions (such as Christmas). In general, the seasonally adjusted series is smoother than the gross series and this further facilitates month-to-month comparisons. For example, gross figures for retail sales are higher in December than in November; the seasonally adjusted series allows for generally higher sales at Christmas and makes it possible to compare the December figures with those of preceding months. Eurostat calculates the adjustment only if nationally adjusted data are not available. Eurostat also calculates seasonally adjusted series for the European Union and the euro area.

For some economic activities, the number of particular days in a month has a significant impact on the level of the series. For example, monthly activity in retail trade depends on the number of Saturdays during the reference month. Series are calendar adjusted when the effects linked to the number of days of different types occurring in the reference month are removed from the series.

Most STS indicators are adjusted for calendar effects and/or seasonally adjusted by using TRAMO and SEATS software, once the influence of working days or seasonal variations has been detected. During these adjustments, other calendar effects such as Easter or leap years are also taken account of.

13. Are the weights available?

Each Member State's share in the European aggregates (EU or euro area) in terms of weights is given for each activity or group of activities. The files containing these weights are available on the Eurostat website and can be consulted here.

The weights are updated every five years or whenever there are new Member States in the composition of the EU or euro area aggregates.

14. Do the STS data correspond to monetary values?

The short-term statistics collected under the STS Regulation are exclusively indices.

Hence, the STS indicators provide no information as to level of prices or the level of turnover but only information as to how prices or turnover have risen or fallen in the previous month, the previous quarter, or the previous 12 months. For structural data, which provide a snapshot of the economy at a specific moment, please consult the annual structural business statistics data (see the section on Structural Business Statistics on the Eurostat website).

15. In what monetary unit are the price indices measured, particularly since the introduction of the euro?

The Member States' price indices are calculated on the basis of the prices of products or services in their national currency. For countries belonging to the euro area, the currency used between 1999 and 2002 may have been the national currency or the euro, or both. Certain enterprises adopted the euro as from 1 January 1999, others later. Given that the rate of exchange between the national currency and the euro was fixed during this period (1999-2002) price trends remain unchanged whether the prices are expressed in euros or in the national currency. For countries which have not adopted the euro, price indices are expressed in national currency terms.