The rise of firms with no employees

The latest statistics on company size, employment and turnover show a rising number of companies with no employees, mirroring the rise in self employment. 

Earlier this year NPI released a short report looking at how the sizes of firms in the UK had changed between 2000 and 2014. The number of firms with zero employees had grown a lot, while the number of large and medium sized firms had only grown a little. At the same time, though, the share of turnover going to very large firms had grown. What it looked like was that there were increasing numbers of very small firms  - those with zero employees - whose turnover was very small, and a static number of large ones bringing in increasing amounts of money.

ONS and BIS released new statistics for 2015  last week. What they showed was, broadly, a continuation of those trends. The number of firms with zero employees grew again, and by more than other sized firms. Employment grew in all sizes of firm. Turnover grew by more in large firms than small ones.

Bringing this all together, what we find is that, per person employed, small and very small firms have not really seen their turnover rise since the crisis struck in 2008. In fact, per firm, turnover for zero employee firms has fallen steadily for around a decade.

This trend matches the trend in self employment. A lot of these zero employee firms will essentially be self employed people working for themselves. We know that their numbers have increased over the last decade. We also know that the incomes of self employed people have fallen. What we see here is the echo of these person level statistics at the level of the firm. 

The interactive below explores these figures a bit more. Clicking "Next" under the graph will move the animation on. Hovering over the lines or bars shows the value. 

Unfortunately this interactive will not display in older browsers such as Internet Explorer 8 or earlier.