Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index, September 2023

7 min read
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-2,000 job vacancies | -1.31%

In the UK in August, small businesses with one to nine employees had 2,000 fewer job vacancies nationally. That’s a monthly decrease of 1.31% to 155,000 vacancies compared to the previous official benchmark of 157,000 in July’s Vacancy Survey, published by the Office for National Statistics.*

This is the slowest rate of decline since the Index was launched in March 2023

Small business job vacancies decline in every sector

All 13 sectors covered by the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index posted fewer job vacancies at small businesses in August compared to July. The three sectors with the largest declines were:

  • Wholesale and retail (SIC G): down by 400, with a monthly decrease of 1.69% to 20,700 small business job vacancies. This sector includes all product-based businesses that sell to retailers or directly to consumers.

  • Transport and storage (UK SIC H): down by 300 to 10,500 small business job vacancies. This is a monthly decrease of 2.31% — the fastest rate of decline across all sectors. This sector includes commercial and passenger transport, warehouse storage and delivery services.

  • Finance and insurance (UK SIC K): down by 200 to 7,200 small business job vacancies. The monthly decrease of 2.22% is the second fastest rate of decline across all sectors. In addition to insurance companies, this sector includes pension, investment and fund management businesses.

Small business hiring fell fastest in Wales

Small business job vacancies were again down in all four UK nations in August, as they were in July, with Wales seeing the fastest rate of decline:

  • Wales: down by 1.83% to 5,400 vacancies — 100 fewer than in July.

  • Scotland: down by 1.81% to 9,500 vacancies — 200 fewer than in July.

  • England: down by 1.40% to 137,500 vacancies — 1,900 fewer than in July.

  • Northern Ireland: down by 1.22% to 2,300 vacancies — 100 fewer than in July.

Ufuk Akcigit, the Arnold C. Harberger Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, said: “The negative economic outlook, albeit with some signs of improvement, is reflected in the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index. In August, job vacancies in firms with 1-9 employees contracted by 1.31%, indicating a milder contraction compared to previous months since the index's launch in March 2023. That said, there were several categories that were still hit hard, such as the transport and storage sector where job vacancies contracted by 2.31% largely due to rising costs. This is noted in the Consumer Price Index where the ‘transportation’ category experienced its largest price increase from June to July due to rising petrol prices.

“Similarly, the finance and insurance sector has been struggling, with mortgage rates and borrowing costs at 15-year highs. These firms have faced shrinking profit margins due to increasing financing costs and decreasing loan demand. Consequently, the financial and insurance activities sector saw the second-largest contraction, with a 2.22% decrease in vacancies among small businesses in July 2023 compared to June 2023.

“Vacancies among small businesses contracted across all four nations in the United Kingdom, with Wales experiencing the sharpest decline of 1.83%, according to the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index. An August 2023 Labour Market Report by the Office for National Statistics revealed that for the three months ending in June 2023, Wales was the only region with fewer total hours worked compared to the previous year, indicating a weakening business activity in the region. Furthermore, Wales also had the highest unemployment rate among the regions, at 4.8%, suggesting that the sluggish business activity is not solely due to labour shortages but is primarily a result of slow business growth.”

More information

Get all the details from the interactive Small Business Index dashboard.

Media inquiries

Media contact details for QuickBooks in the UK can be found here on the QuickBooks UK website.

USA Index

The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index is also published monthly in the US. Get the latest small business employment insights for the US here. 

Canada Index

The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index is also published monthly in Canada. Get the latest small business employment insights for Canada here.

About the Index

The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index is a timely new measure of small business employment and hiring in the UK, the US and Canada. The Index launched in March 2023 and is updated monthly. The Index uses purpose-built economic models to normalise anonymised QuickBooks data to reflect the general population of small businesses in each country; it is not a reflection of Intuit’s business. The Index was developed in collaboration with leading economist Professor Ufuk Akcigit and an international team of researchers and academics.

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index: Overview


The Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index creates aggregated data outputs from a sample of anonymised QuickBooks Online Payroll customer records which are calibrated using statistical methods to create modelled results which better reflect the general population of small businesses in each country, as represented by published official statistics. Statistical adjustment ensures the Index truly reflects employment and job vacancy changes rather than trends in the QuickBooks customer base.

Read more or download the full methodology.

Rounded values

Total and monthly changes in employment and job vacancies have been rounded to the nearest hundred. Monthly changes and growth rates are calculated before total employment or job vacancy values are rounded. Rates have been rounded to the nearest hundredth.

Seasonal adjustments

The Index’s data insights are seasonally adjusted to limit the effect of seasonal patterns in employment and hiring throughout the year, which lead to regular fluctuations in workforce growth and contraction.

Employment growth formula

Employment growth(t) = [Employment(t)-Employment(t-1)]/[0.5*Employment(t)+0.5*Employment(t-1)]

*Employment levels

The Index produces a monthly prediction of employment growth rates by country, region, and sector. In order to translate these growth rates into the number of jobs/vacancies gained or lost, the growth rates are multiplied by the prior month’s predicted employment levels, except during the months when official statistics are published. During those months, the latest official employment levels that have been reported are used in the calculation instead of the Index’s prior month’s predicted employment levels. As a result, the Index’s predicted total employment levels may at times differ from the predicted growth rates. Official statistics are published at different frequencies depending on the country ranging from monthly to quarterly.

Time series

The Index uses data going back to January 2018 in the UK and to January 2015 in the US and Canada. Published at the earliest opportunity every month, the Index shows the number of job vacancies at small businesses (in the UK) or the number of people employed by small businesses (in the US and Canada) in the previous month and how that number has changed since the month before. The Index helps to eliminate almost all of the time lags in official statistics by providing estimated projections of what those statistics will ultimately show when they are published.

Sample sizes

The total sample across all three countries is around 424,000 small businesses. The UK sample is almost 25,000 small businesses. The US sample is almost 333,000 small businesses. The Canadian sample is almost 66,000 small businesses. The minimum sample sizes for regions or sectors to be included in the Index are 200 small businesses in the UK, 1,000 small businesses in the US and 800 small businesses in Canada. 

Target populations

In the UK and US, the Index targets the populations of small businesses with one to nine employees. In Canada, the target population is small businesses with one to 19 employees. The differences ensure the Index’s data insights are consistent with official statistics in each country, which are used for benchmarking during the calibration process. Timely data insights for these populations of small businesses are particularly valuable since most datasets fail to cover this portion of the economy well. Please note: Unlike in the US and Canada, the UK Index uses job vacancy data for calibration rather than employment data because official employment statistics are not currently available for small businesses on a monthly basis. 

External data sources

External data sources used alongside the samples of anonymized QuickBooks Online Payroll customer data include:

Geographic regions

  • In the UK, data insights are currently available at the country level (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) — not regionally within countries

Industry sectors

In the UK, data insights are available by UK Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities (SIC) sectors (known as “sections”)


This content is for information purposes only and should not be considered legal, accounting or tax advice, or a substitute for obtaining professional advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by region, state or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit does not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit does not warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.

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