Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES)

Annual employment estimates for 2011 and revised estimates for 2010 from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) were released at 09:30 on Friday 28 Sep 2012. Access to the BRES dataset requires special authorisation - see section on Accessing BRES Data on Nomis at the bottom of this article for how to apply.

Users with permission can access the BRES dataset using the advanced/wizard query facility:

BRES Data on Nomis

Key features:

  • Date: The current release included new estimates for 2011 and revised estimates for 2010.
  • Geography: Estimates are available down to lower layer super output areas / Scottish data zones.
  • Gender: no male/female split is available in BRES. Male and female employee splits are not collected in the survey because some businesses find it difficult to provide this information and the quality of the data can be poor.
  • Employment status: Figures are available for full-time, part-time and total employees. Employment figures are also available which are employees plus working owners. Employment figures were not previously available in the ABI dataset.
  • Industry: Annual employment figures for BRES are available on the 2007 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC 2007) basis. Figures are available down to the 5-digit subclass level. Farm agriculture (subclass 01000) is available at region and country level only.
  • Data units / workplace analysis: The workplace analysis formerly available with the Annual Business Inquiry is not available under BRES. Users who require information on the count of businesses should refer to the UK Business release on the National Statistics website. A free-to-view dataset of rounded business counts will also be available on Nomis later in the year as a separate dataset.
  • Confidentiality rules: Standard ONS primary disclosure rules are applied to BRES data output from Nomis. Disclosive figures are flagged with an exclamation mark (!) and must be removed before passing onto anyone not named on your notice. You must also manually apply secondary suppression as detailed in the BRES User Guide (pdf).
  • Data quality: BRES is based on a sample survey so estimates are subject to sampling errors which need to be taken into account when interpreting the data. See the Standard Errors section below.

Coefficients of Variation

BRES is a business survey which collects employment information. Users should be aware that the data presented are estimates, subject to both sampling error (arising from the fact that the BRES is a sample, not a census) and non-sampling error (any error other than sampling error).

Coefficients of variation (CV) can be calculated for all estimates. The CV is the ratio of the standard error of an estimate to the estimate, expressed in terms of a percentage. Since the smaller the CV, the higher the quality of the estimate, it follows that the lower the level of geography and industry, the larger the CV. The CVs at a region / country level for the 2011 total employee estimates are shown in the table below.

  Coefficient of variation - total employees

Government Office Region / Country

CV (percentage)

North East 1.2
North West 0.8
Yorkshire and the Humber 0.7
East Midlands 0.8
West Midlands 0.9
East of England 0.6
London 0.7
South East 0.6
South West 0.8
Wales 0.9
Scotland 0.6
Great Britain 0.2

CVs on an industry basis and at a local authority level are available on the National Statistics website, and exclude farm agriculture data.

Caution should be applied when comparing estimates at or below the local authority level especially when further disaggregating by industry. In this circumstance the coefficient of variation is likely to increase, meaning the 95 per cent confidence interval becomes wider.

The 95% confidence interval gives the boundaries between which the true value lies with a 95 per cent confidence level. For example, the total number of employees for Great Britain is 26,561,000 and the CV for this estimate is 0.4. Using the standard formula for calculating confidence intervals, this means that we are 95 per cent confident that the true value is between 26,353,500 and 26,769,900.

The estimates are also subject to a modelling error, due to the minimum domain methodology which is used to produce low level estimates. This error also increases as the geographical level becomes more detailed, but it is difficult to measure.

Free to View BRES data

Limited free to view figures at local authority level and above are available from the BRES homepage of the National Statistics website. The free to view data are available at the following aggregations on the National Statistics website:

  • GB/UK by Broad Industrial Grouping (BIG) with a public/private split
  • GB/UK by 2-digit SIC/3-digit SIC/5-digit SIC with a public/private split (UK not available at the 5-digit SIC level)
  • Region: total with a public/private split
  • Region: total by BIG with a public/private split
  • Local Authority County: total with a public/private split

Figures presented within the tables on the National Statistics website are subject to disclosure controls - both primary and secondary disclosure. Secondary disclosure suppresses figures to ensure figures that are primary suppressed cannot be derived by deduction.

Public/private employment split BRES estimates

A new BRES dataset will be available on Nomis showing employment estimates by public/private designation. This dataset will be free-to-view and provide public/private estimates down to a local authority district and parliamentary constituency level. The estimates will be rounded and any disclosive estimates will have been suppressed. The estimates will be available by geography only with no breakdown by standard industrial classification.

Working owners discontinuity

A discontinuity exists between the BRES 2010 and 2011 estimates. This discontinuity is caused by changes made to the BRES questionnaire in 2011 that have made it clearer to respondents as to how they should be returning information on working owners. This change has had the effect of increasing the number of employees and decreasing the number in employment.

A more detailed analysis of the discontinuity can be found here. ONS will make available a full 2010 revised dataset that has been adjusted to take account of this discontinuity later in 2012. High level estimates that have been adjusted for the discontinuity are available now in the BRES statistical bulletin (link)

Accessing BRES Data on Nomis

The full BRES and earlier ABI datasets on Nomis gives access at all geographic and industry levels but access is restricted. You must first obtain a Chancellor of the Exchequer's Notice from ONS.

Registered users can check whether they already have access by going to the my account section and selecting the BRES access option (BRES data is not available with guest logins). The cost for a new Notice is £60 + vat. To apply for a new Notice please complete the online application:

Apply for a New Chancellor's Notice

The access will also allow users to view back data from the Annual Business Inquiry, although caution should be applied if comparing these to BRES (please see the discontinuity section above for further information).

For further information please contact the BRES helpline on 01633 456903 or email: