Annual Business Inquiry (ABI)

Subjects on this page:

Main uses

ABI is a survey of jobs in Great Britain.  It is not, however, ONS’s recommended source for data on jobs as the estimates in their Labour Market Statistics (which combines data from a variety of sources including the Labour Force Survey as well as ABI) is considered to be more accurate.  But Labour Market Statistics only provide a limited number of job analyses and, for anything at a more detailed level, ABI is the recommended source.

Note that ABI covers Great Britain only.  For jobs data for Northern Ireland, see the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment website.


In summary:

  • Available from: the Nomis website, selecting the tables required using the ‘wizard query’ facility.
  • Registration required: yes.
  • First survey available: 1998.
  • Frequency: annual.
  • Updated: December.
  • Scope: Great Britain-wide (i.e. does not include Northern Ireland).
  • Format: Excel.
  • Files: A single spreadsheet per query containing all the requested tables.
  • Documentation: none, but most of the tables are self-explanatory.
  • Weighted or unweighted: weighted.
  • Household income data: not applicable.

The actual ABI dataset is not publicly available.  Rather, what is available is the ability to make requests for the number of jobs by selected combinations of geographic area, industry, gender and full-/part-time.  This is achieved using the ‘wizard query’ facility on the main NOMIS page.

Note that:

  • The scope of ABI is employed jobs only and that it does not include people who are self-employed.
  • The analysis if by where the jobs are rather than where the employees live.

General issues

Which tables to use

The first step in the NOMIS query facility is to select the dataset of interest.  There are two ABI datasets, namely:

  • Employee analysis: an employer survey of the number of jobs held by employees.
  • Workplace analysis: a survey of the number of workplaces and their size (in terms of employees).

These two datasets are identical except that:

  • The employee analysis allows a breakdown by gender and full-/part-time whilst the workplace analysis allows a breakdown by the number of employees in the workplace.
  • The figures are different for the ‘agriculture and fishing’ industrial group because some farm-based agricultural jobs are excluded from the workplace analysis.

The second step is to select the breakdowns wanted, where the options are:

  • Geography area (in terms of both the type of area and particular areas of this type).
  • Year.
  • By industry (in terms of both the type of industry classification and the particular classifications of this type).
  • By gender and full- or part-time (for the employee analysis only).
  • By number of employees at the workplace (for the workplace analysis only).

The defined tables will then be made available in a single Excel spreadsheet for downloading onto your PC.

Analyses over time

The first ABI survey was in 1998 and the data refers to the jobs available within each area rather than the jobs performed by the people who live there.  In principle, a longer time series could be obtained by stitching together the ABI and its predecessor, the Annual Employment Survey.  In practice, however, this is not possible because the two surveys use different methods of calculation which give rather different answers at geographic levels below that of Great Britain.  Such discrepancies are discussed in the ONS report of their ABI/AES reconciliation project, which recognised the extent of this problem.

Specific issues

Analysis by region

Whilst a number of tables are available at a regional level, not all are.  In reaction, researchers can place data requests to ONS but these are largely restricted to geographic breakdowns for those tables which are only published on the UK-wide basis.

Analysis by local authority area

There are two types of local authority table, one by place of residence (i.e. where the employees live) and the other by place of work (i.e. where the employees work).  Particularly for local authority areas near the major cities, the results in these two types of table can be very different and care should therefore be taken to choose the one that is most appropriate for the analysis to be undertaken.

Analysis over time

Although, as discussed at the top of the page, ASHE data across years cannot simply be combined to produce time trends because non-vatable companies were only included from 2004 onwards, the 2004 tables are available both including and excluding non-vatable companies.  By comparing these two sets of results, adjustments can be made to the earlier data to put it on a comparable basis.

The ASHE tables for 1997 to 2001 are actually imputed from a different survey – the New Earnings Survey – as the ASHE survey itself only actually started in 2002.  But this does not mean that the New Earnings Survey data for years prior to 1997 can be directly compared with the ASHE data – the two surveys have different methodologies.

Relevant graphs on this website

This dataset is not currently used for any of the website graphs. If it were then they would use the employee analysis dataset, the ‘broad industrial groups’ and been supplement by relevant data for Northern Ireland (ABI is Great Britain only).