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Background Notes

A CSO Frontier Series Output- What is this?

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The ‘Business Signs of Life’ series has been created by the CSO to examine changes in the Irish Business Economy during the COVID-19 pandemic using available administrative data sources, which can provide more timely indications than traditional statistical sources. Annual statistics on the business population are generally published with a time lag of 18 months after the reference year. The reason for this time lag is that figures on active enterprises depend on processed tax return data supplied to the Revenue Commissioners, which businesses have 11 months after the reference year to submit – for example, the 2018 Business Demography results were published in July 2020. However, changes in business activity have taken place more abruptly in 2020/21 and timelier statistical measures are needed.

Data sources

Series One of ‘Business Signs of Life’ reports on the interaction between employment-related payments and business activity, from March 2020 to January 2021. This series examines the enterprise business sectors which have been most impacted by the pandemic and its associated restrictions. The results represent exploratory data matching and analysis by the CSO based on data from the following sources:

  • CSO's Central Business Register
  • Revenue’s real-time PAYE Modernisation data (PMOD)
  • Revenue’s data on Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS)
  • Department of Social Protection data on Pandemic Unemployment Payments (PUP)

CSO Central Business Register

The CSO's Central Business Register is a register of all active enterprises in the State. New enterprises are identified by VAT, Employer, Corporation Tax and Income Tax registrations. The following sources (same as identifiers to identify new enterprises except for VAT) are used to determine if an enterprise is active during the reference year:

  • Employees registered
  • Corporation Tax returns
  • Income Tax returns

Generally, there is a time lag of 18 months when determining enterprise activity. Therefore, the base population for this release is 2018.

Revenue PAYE Modernisation

PAYE Modernisation (PMOD) has been operational for all employers in the State since the beginning of 2019. Under this system, employers are required to report their employee’s pay and deductions in real-time to Revenue each time they operate payroll. Information is provided to Revenue at individual payslip level and pseudonymised data is available to the CSO.

Revenue Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

Revenue operated the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) from 26 March 2020 to 31 August 2020. The TWSS was available to employers who kept their employees on the payroll throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The TWSS ended on 31 August 2020 and was replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

The EWSS is an economy-wide enterprise support that focuses primarily on business eligibility. The scheme provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers based on the number of eligible employees on the employer’s payroll and gross pay to employees. The data for both the TWSS and EWSS is at individual level and a pseudonymised version is available to the CSO.

Department of Social Protection Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is a support for employees and self-employed who have lost their employment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PUP is paid every Tuesday and weekly data on an individual level is made available to CSO. The data is matched to existing data sources to ascertain the enterprise that the individual was associated with prior to the pandemic.

Definitions / Concepts

  • COVID-19 income support intensity is the percentage of personnel with the enterprise who are availing of the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) or associated persons on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
  • The term ‘associated persons’ is used in this release in relation to PUP recipients. The PUP is a support for employees and self-employed who have lost their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it is the individual who is in receipt of the payment, and not the enterprise, this statistical analysis counts the enterprises where persons engaged received PUP. As such, these ‘associated persons’ are included as personnel with their most recent enterprise.
  • While the PUP scheme is paid weekly, to examine it in conjunction with the WSS it was necessary to aggregate it to a monthly basis. As the scheme is paid on the Tuesday of each week, this was taken to represent the ‘pay date’. This may result in some natural anomalies in the data aggregation, e.g. there are five weeks of payment coded to June, but only four to July.
  • The Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) refers to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) as the TWSS was discontinued at the end of August 2020 and replaced with the EWSS.



The sectors of economic activity included in the survey were determined in accordance with the NACE Rev.2 classification scheme, which is the European Commission’s classification system for economic activity. The NACE Rev.2 sectors included in the survey were as follows:

Sector B:          Mining and quarrying

Sector C:          Manufacturing

Sector D:          Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

Sector E:          Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

Sector F:          Construction

Sector G:          Wholesale and retail trade; Repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

Sector H:          Transportation and storage

Sector I:           Accommodation and food service activities

Sector J:           Information and communication

Sector K:           Financial and insurance activities

Sector L:           Real estate activities   

Sector M:          Professional, scientific and technical activities

Sector N:          Administrative and support service activities

Sector R:          Arts, entertainment and recreation

Sector S:          Other service activities

Tourism Industries

For this release, Tourism Industries is derived from a list of NACE Rev.2 activities developed by Eurostat. This list comprises of:

H4910               Passenger rail transport, interurban

H4932               Taxi operation

H4939               Other passenger land transport n.e.c.

H5010               Sea and coastal passenger water transport

H5030               Inland passenger water transport

H5110               Passenger air transport

I5510                Hotels and similar accommodation

I5520                Holiday and other short-stay accommodation

I5530                Camping grounds, recreational vehicle parks and trailer parks

I5610                Restaurants and mobile food service activities

I5630                Beverage serving activities

N7710               Renting and leasing of cars and trucks

N7721               Renting and leasing of recreational and sports goods

N7910               Travel agency and tour operator activities

N7990               Other reservation service and related activities

Cultural and Creative Industries

For this release, Cultural and Creative Industries is derived from a list of NACE Rev.2 activities developed by Eurostat. This list comprises of:

C18                   Printing and reproduction of recorded media

C3212               Manufacture of jewellery and related articles

C322                 Manufacture of musical instruments

G4761               Retail sale of books in specialised stores

G4762               Retail sale of newspapers and stationery in specialised stores

J5811                Book publishing

J5813                Publishing of newspapers

J5814                Publishing of journals and periodicals

J5821                Publishing of computer games

J59                    Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing


J60                    Programming and broadcasting activities

J6391                News agency activities

M7111               Architectural activities

M741                 Specialised design activities

M742                 Photographic activities

M743                 Translation and interpretation activities

N7722               Renting of video tapes and disks

R90                   Creative, arts and entertainment activities

R91                   Libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities

Broad NACE groupings

Sector    NACE Rev. 2 Category
Non-office-based  B-I, R-S
Office-based  F
Domestic  Enterprises with foreign control <=50%
Foreign  Enterprises with foreign control >50%
Modern  18, 20-21, 26-27, 3250, 58-59, 61-63
Traditional  All other NACE Rev. 2 categories

Geographic Breakdown

The geographical breakdown for enterprises is an approximation. The county breakdown is based on the address at which an enterprise is registered for Revenue purposes rather than where the business operates from, because no comprehensive administrative data source is currently available for locations.

Enterprises where the region is categorised as "County not available" has either an incomplete address or a Revenue registered address outside the Republic of Ireland but are active on Revenue within the State. The address given at registration with Revenue is the registered address used in the Central Business Register unless amended at a later date due to enterprise profiling activities within the CSO. In some cases, these registered addresses may be outside the Republic of Ireland, but they are counted as active within the Republic of Ireland due to either employment, income tax or corporation tax returns.

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