Statistics released this week by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy show there are now 5.5 million firms in the UK, compared with 3.5 million in 2000 and just under 4.5 million in 2010. The vast majority are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with micro-businesses (those with 1 to 9 employees) accounting for 5.25 million, up from 5.15 in 2015.

The study found that SMEs accounted for at least 99% of companies in all main sectors of British industry. In operation in the UK today are 1 million more small firms (defined as those fewer than 50 employees) than six years ago, in addition to 4,000 medium-sized enterprises and 900 large companies.

In the past 12 months alone, almost 100,000 firms have been set up, 84,000 of which are one-person businesses. Across the country’s business population, 76% of companies have no employees, aside from the owner.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said:

Britain’s businesses are the heroes of our economic revival and it is great to see the number of businesses rise by over a million since 2010.

Our job creators don’t always get the praise and respect they deserve but we should be proud of our entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators. The government is committed to ensuring Britain builds on its success and is the best place to start and grow a business.

The government figures found that 60% of all private-sector employment in the UK is provided by SMEs. These businesses employ 15.7 million people and generate £1.8 trillion in annual revenue – just under half of Britain’s overall private-sector turnover.

The number of businesses per head of population is highest in London and the South-east, and lowest in the North-east of England and Scotland.

Business ministers have this week also announced a new consultation on the role of Small Business Commissioner; this position is intended to give small firm owners a voice in government as well as to deal with complaints over how SMEs are treated by the likes of banks.

Get expert business advice delivered straight to your inbox.