Number of private sector businesses in the UK swells to an all-time high of 4.9m

The number of private companies offering employment in the UK has nearly broken the five million barrier, according to new official figures.

A rise of 102,000 companies helped swell the figure to a record 4.9 million.

These fall almost exclusively within the small and medium-sized business category. Firms employing fewer than 250 people represent 99% of the total number.

Companies employing fewer than 50 staff constitute almost half of all firms, meanwhile. They also account for a third of private sector turnover.

Firms will get a 2,000 Employment Allowance discount off their National Insurance bill from next April, effectively taking away the tax on jobs for about 450,000 small businesses.

Ministers in June repeated their commitment to help small and medium-sized businesses flourish, and the Government will launch its Small Business Strategy soon.

This will outline what additional backing will be given to create a positive environment for businesses to begin and grow.

This will tie in with its economic policy aim to bring "strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries".

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the latest statistics are a "timely reminder" of the number of people willing to try their hand at business pursuits.

Mr Cable added: "They also show an encouraging regional story, with the figures for the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber particularly positive."

Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said that Britain is "turning a corner", with a record 4.9 million businesses now trading across the country.

The minister said there are today 447,000 more businesses than in 2010, a rise of more than 10%.

Mr Hancock added: "There is much more to do, not least to make it easier to employ people and create jobs, like with the new 2,000 Employment Allowance that from April will cut tax on jobs in every company, large and small."

The full figures are available on the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) website - at

Copyright Press Association 2013