1. Main points
- Latest results suggest business conditions continue to remain challenging, but estimates show small signs of positive improvement for some measures; examples include a stable proportion of businesses reporting they were able to get materials, goods and services from within the UK, and more businesses reported having fewer concerns for their business.
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) of trading businesses reported that they were able to get the materials, goods or services they needed from within the UK in March 2023, broadly stable with February 2023.
- Looking ahead to May 2023, 7 in 10 (71%) businesses reported some form of concern for their business, down from 72% for April 2023; the top two concerns continued to be energy prices (18%) and inflation of goods and services prices (16%).
- Almost a third (31%) of businesses with 10 or more employees were experiencing worker shortages in late April, up two percentage points from late March 2023; more than half (53%) of those affected indicated that their employees were working increased hours as a consequence.
- Around one in seven (14%) businesses reported that their employees' hourly wages had increased in March 2023 compared with February 2023; this was 23% for businesses with 10 or more employees.
- Less than one in ten (9%) businesses were directly or indirectly affected by industrial action in March 2023, down three percentage points from February 2023; almost a quarter (24%) of those businesses reported that their workforce had to change their working location.
2. Headline figures
The data presented in this bulletin are the results from Wave 81 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS), which was live from 17 to 30 April 2023.
The data reported within BICS bulletins and datasets are estimates that are subject to uncertainty, such as sampling variability and non-sampling error. Further information on quality is available in our Business Insights and Conditions Survey Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report, and we regularly update the confidence intervals associated with the survey questions.
Experimental single-site weighted regional estimates up to Wave 74 are available in our Business insights and impact on the UK subnational single-site economy: February 2023 article.
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Figure 1: Headline figures from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey
- For presentational purposes, some response options have been excluded.
Data are plotted in the middle of each wave.
Download this chart.xlsx
The percentage of businesses that reported they were trading was 95% in late April 2023, with 86% fully trading and 9% partially trading (for example, trading with reduced hours or staff numbers). Meanwhile, 3% of businesses reported "temporarily paused trading" and 2% "permanently ceased trading" as their business's trading status.Back to table of contents
3. Exporting and importing
Of currently trading businesses with 10 or more employees, 19% had exported and 24% imported in the last 12 months.
In March 2023, those businesses that had exported and/or imported in the last year were asked how their exporting and importing compared with March 2022, and which challenges they had experienced an increase in compared with the previous calendar month.
Figure 2: Exporting and importing figures from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey
- Exporting or importing compared with the same month last year: percentage of businesses currently trading with 10 or more employees and had reported they had exported or imported in the last year. For presentational purposes, response options have been combined.
- Exporting or importing challenges: percentage of businesses currently trading with 10 or more employees, reported they had exported and/or imported in the last year, and reported how their exports and/or imports were affected. Businesses may report that exporting and/or importing has not been affected but are still able to report challenges.
- Caution should be taken when interpreting these results based on the specific routing of this question meaning that only a small number of businesses responded.
Data are plotted in the middle of the period of each wave.
Download this chart.xlsx
Further industry and size band breakdowns for all exporting and importing questions are available in our accompanying dataset.Back to table of contents
4. Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) data
Business insights and impact on the UK economy
Dataset | Released 4 May 2023
Weighted estimates from the voluntary fortnightly business survey (BICS) about financial performance, workforce, prices, trade and business resilience. This dataset includes additional information collected as part of the survey not presented in this publication.
Business insights and impact on the UK economy confidence intervals
Dataset | Released 27 April 2023
Confidence intervals for weighted estimates from the voluntary fortnightly business survey (BICS) about financial performance, workforce, prices, trade and business resilience.
Access to microdata
You can access the microdata for Waves 1 to 80 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) through the Secure Research Service (SRS). The BICS microdata for each wave are released on a rolling basis in the week following the publication of each wave. The microdata are made confidential and do not disclose information on any specific business.
Only researchers accredited under the Digital Economy Act, as explained on the UK Statistics Authority website, are able to access data in the SRS. You can apply for accreditation through our Research Accreditation Service (RAS). You need to have relevant academic or work experience and must successfully attend and complete the assessed Safe Researcher Training.
To conduct analysis with microdata from the SRS, a project application must be submitted to the Research Accreditation Panel (RAP), as explained on the UK Statistics Authority website. To access the SRS, you must also work for an organisation with an Assured Organisational Connectivity agreement in place.Back to table of contents
The business unit to which questionnaires are sent is called the reporting unit. The response from the reporting unit can cover the enterprise as a whole or parts of the enterprise identified by lists of local units.
Net balance is the difference between the percentage of businesses that reported a decrease and the percentage of businesses that reported an increase.Back to table of contents
6. Measuring the data
More quality and methodology information (QMI) on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) QMI, updated on 24 January 2022.
The BICS is voluntary and the results are experimental. More information is available in our Guide to experimental statistics.
|Wave||6 April 2023 Publication|
|20 April 2023 Publication|
|4 May 2023 Publication|
Download this table Table 1: Sample and response rates for Wave 79, 80 and 81 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey.xls .csv
The results are based on responses from the voluntary fortnightly BICS, which captures businesses' views on financial performance, workforce, prices, trade, and business resilience. The Wave 81 survey was live for the period 17 to 30 April 2023. The BICS survey questions are available.
The Monthly Business Survey (MBS) covers the UK for production and Great Britain (GB) only for services. The Retail Sales Index (RSI) and construction are GB-focused. Therefore, the BICS will be UK-focused for production-based industries but GB-focused for the other elements of the economy covered. The sectors covered are:
- non-financial services (includes professional, scientific, communication, administrative, transport, accommodation and food, private health and education, and entertainment services)
- distribution (includes retail, wholesale, and motor trades)
- production (includes manufacturing, oil and gas extraction, energy generation and supply, and water and waste management)
- construction (includes civil engineering, housebuilding, property development and specialised construction trades such as plumbers, electricians, and plasterers)
The following industries are excluded from the survey:
- oil and gas extraction
- energy generation and supply
- public administration and defence
- public provision of education and health
- finance and insurance
For more information on the methodology of producing the BICS, such as weighting, please see our BICS QMI report.Back to table of contents
7. Strengths and limitations
More quality and methodology information (QMI) on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) QMI.Back to table of contents
9. Cite this statistical bulletin
Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 4 May 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Business insights and impact on the UK economy: 4 May 2023
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 1633 456417