Business register data: Data integration infrastructure division

Business Register Coverage

The Business Register is a repository of information reflecting the Canadian business population and exists primarily to supply frames for all economic surveys in Statistics Canada. It provides a means of coordinating the coverage of business surveys and of achieving consistent classification of statistical reporting units.

Included in Business Register data are all Canadian businesses which meet at least one of the three following criteria:

  1. Have an employee workforce for which they submit payroll remittances to CRA;
  2. Have at least $30,000 in annual revenue;
  3. Are incorporated under a federal or provincial act and have filed a federal corporate income tax form within the past three years.

Available Data

Canadian Business Counts (formerly Canadian Business Patterns)

Location counts with employees by province/Canada, NAICS and employment size ranges.

Location counts without employees by province/Canada and NAICS.

Custom Aggregate Data Tables:

Employment Size Range

  • Units: Location, establishment or enterprise counts
  • Geography: All geography
  • Industry: All levels of NAICS
  • Employment Size Ranges: Standard 9 ranges or custom 13 or 21 ranges
  • Confidentiality measures: None

Revenue Ranges

  • Units: Location, establishment or enterprise counts
  • Geography: Province and CA/CMA
  • Industry: NAICS-2, 3
  • Confidentiality measures: Rounding

Profit/Non-Profit Data (December only)

  • Units: Establishment counts
  • Geography: Province
  • Industry: NAICS-2
  • Confidentiality measures: Suppression

Business Type and Public/Private Data (December only)

  • Units: Enterprise counts
  • Geography: Province and CMA (14)
  • Industry: NAICS-2
  • Confidentiality measures: Suppression

Data variations due to methodological changes, by year

  • In December 2000, and June 2005, the number of smaller businesses declined. The Business Register has analyzed new administrative sources to detect more rapidly and accurately business closures. This has resulted in the use of new signals that are now part of the processes to update the Business Register.
  • The June 2006 reference period shows an increase in the number of businesses because of a methodological change. There is a new way of identifying newcomers on the Business Register. The following sectors have been affected: NAICS 48–49 (Transportation and Warehousing), NAICS 53 (Real Estate and Rental and Leasing) and NAICS 54 (Professional, Scientific and Technical Services).
  • The December 2007 reference period is based on the redesigned Business Register. The statistical structure (including establishments) has been simplified to better reflect the operating structure of the business. The decrease in the number of establishments is the result of our continuous efforts to detect inactive businesses as early as possible.
  • The December 2008 reference period introduced the use of "statistical location" counts, besides the usual establishment counts. The use of location counts provides a better measurement of business units. Definitions of the statistical establishment and location are provided later in this document under the "Statistical Establishment" and "Statistical Location" sections.
  • The December 2008 and June 2009 reference periods show a decrease in the number of businesses. This can be attributed to the introduction of new "inactivation rules" that expanded the ability to identify units that aren't reporting any economic activity.
  • For the first time, the December 2010 reference period includes all unincorporated (T1) businesses with sales of at least $30,000. This integration of T1 businesses is intended to create a more comprehensive representation of the business population on our register. Specifically, this change has mainly affected the following sectors: NAICS 53 (Real Estate and Rental and Leasing), NAICS 44–45 (Retail Trade) and NAICS 62 (Health Care and Social Assistance). The introduction of these units hasn't had a significant impact on total business counts and represents 1.6% of all locations in December 2010.
  • A large increase in the June 2013 reference period is due toincorporated businesses which are now required to auto-code a NAICS to record their tax form information with the Canada Revenue Agency. The increase represents an accumulation of about two years of auto-coding. This change affected almost every sector and accounts for most of the growth in the data between December 2012 and June 2013.
  • A small portion of the increase in businesses in December 2013 is due to new rules regarding the acceptance of auto-coded NAICS which resulted in these businesses being included in the data. The impact wasn't as widespread as the initial NAICS auto-code increase in June 2013 but mostly affected non-employers and the majority of sectors.
  • There are two industrial classification categories introduced in 2014; unclassified which is a new category for businesses which haven't received a NAICS code and classified for businesses which have received a NAICS code. The impact of adding the unclassified category is an additional 78,718 locations with employees and 313,107 locations without employees. These counts can be easily identifiable because they're in a separate category.
  • In December 2014, a revision of the employer status on all units of the Business Register resulted in approximately 70,000 businesses with employees to shift to the businesses without employees' category. This is mostly noticeable in the smaller employment size ranges. Business counts in NAICS 72—Accommodation and food services, 62—Health care and social assistance, 31–33—Manufacturing and 44–45—Retail trade see the largest decreases.
  • Starting in December 2014, businesses without employees now cover all enterprises which meet one of the following criteria: is incorporated or shows at least $30,000 in revenue (nontaxable or taxable). This change affects businesses that didn't have $30,000 in taxable revenue in previous years but did have at least $30,000 in (nontaxable and taxable) revenue. These businesses will now be included and represent approximately 600,000 units. Business counts in NAICS 53—Real estate and rental and leasing and 62—Health care and social assistance have the largest increases.
  • The December 2019 counts reflect a downward correction to the number of businesses, especially those without employees, due to new criteria for identifying businesses that had become inactive. Approximately 140,000 units were affected by this correction.

Data quality and limitations

The Business Register is largely based on the Business Number (BN) registration source as collected by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Time Series

Changes to the Business Register's methodology or to business industrial classification strategies can cause increases or decreases in the number of active businesses. As a result, the data do not represent changes in the business population over time. Statistics Canada recommends that users not use the data as a time series.


Generally, a location creation on the Business Register occurs shortly after a BN is created for each business registrant by CRA. The BN registrations are used to update the Business Register database weekly. Sometimes, the business is contacted to obtain the necessary information for the creation of a location record.


Businesses are assigned an inactive status on the Business Register when neither a tax payment nor payroll remittance has been made by these businesses for some time.


The Business Register adopted the Standard Geographical Classification, 2016 version. The link between a business and its geographical code is made using the postal code. Since the postal code is designed by Canada Post and targets the efficient delivery of the mail, there are many situations where one postal code doesn't align exactly to the boundaries of a single SGC geographic unit. The smaller and rural geographic units are more subject to this possibility.

North American Industrial Classification System

For newly created businesses, the primary industrial coding is initially processed using automated coding software. This software evaluates the activity description indicated by the business and assigns the appropriate industry classification coding (about 50% of new business records). Activity descriptions lacking precision are subjected to a manual coding process.

Key definitions found in Business Register Data

Statistical Entities

Statistical Enterprise

An enterprise is the legal operating entity at the top of the operating structure. There is only one enterprise per operating structure. It's associated with a complete set of financial statements.

Statistical Establishment

A statistical establishment is the production entity or the smallest grouping of production entities which:

  1. Produces a homogeneous set of goods or services;
  2. Doesn't cross provincial boundaries; and
  3. Provides data on the value of output together with the cost of principal intermediate inputs used along with the cost and quantity of labour resources used to produce the output.

Statistical Location

The location is an operating entity, specifically a production entity which:

  1. Conducts economic activity at or from a single physical location or group of locations;
  2. Resides within the smallest standardized geographical area;
  3. Is able to provide employment data at a minimum.



Employment is based on both corporations' payroll remittance and profiling/survey data. These data are at first edited and imputed before being used as input for other processes.

For simple units, attached to only one legal entity, the employment is derived from payroll deductions using the 2nd maximum input within the last 12 months of data. For the complex units, aggregated employment, obtained from profiling, is first determined at the enterprise level. This value is afterward distributed at the establishment and location levels based on the profiled employment distribution from the Business Register.

Employment Size Ranges

The following are the employment size ranges available in the Business Register:

  • 1 to 4
  • 5 to 9
  • 10 to 19
  • 20 to 49
  • 50 to 99
  • 100 to 199
  • 200 to 499
  • 500+

Locations without employees include the self-employed, i.e., those who don't maintain an employee payroll, but may have a workforce which consists of contracted workers, family members or business owners. These also include employers who didn't have employees in the last 12 months.

This data should not be used in any manner to compile industry employment estimates.


The Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) is Statistics Canada's official classification for the geographical areas in Canada. It was developed to facilitate the analysis of statistical data using a uniform geographical area definition. It produces a range of geographical areas that are useful for analysis, convenient for data collection and compilation on this basis. It is intended primarily for the classification of statistical units such as locations.

Structure of the Standard Geographical Classification

Each of the three sets of areas covers all of Canada. They are hierarchical: a census subdivision aggregates to a census division, which in turn aggregates to a province or territory.

(1) Province and Territory

"Province" and "territory" refer to the major political units of Canada. From a statistical point of view, province and territory are basic areas for which data are tabulated. Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories.

(2) Census Division

Census division (CD) is the general term for provincially legislated areas (such as county and regional district) or their equivalents. Census divisions are intermediate geographic areas between the province/territory level and the municipality (census subdivision).

Usually they are groups of neighbouring municipalities joined together for the purposes of regional planning and managing common services (such as police or ambulance services). These groupings are established under laws in certain provinces of Canada.

(3) Census Subdivision

Census subdivision (CSD) is the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g., Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories).

Please take note, when using the CSD, of the volatility of the counts between the different reference periods. Units move from one CSD to another, not due to actual changes in physical location, but due to changes in linkages between a specific CSD and postal code.

Census Metropolitan Area and Census Agglomeration

A census metropolitan area (CMA) or a census agglomeration (CA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre (known as the core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the core. A CA must have a core population of at least 10,000. To be included in the CMA or CA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the core as measured by commuting flows derived from previous census place of work data.

If the population of the core of a CA declines below 10,000, the CA is retired. However, once an area becomes a CMA, it is retained as a CMA even if its total population declines below 100,000 or the population of its core falls below 50,000. All areas inside the CMA or CA, that aren't population centres, are rural areas.

Other Geographies

Economic Region

An economic region (ER) is a grouping of complete census divisions (CDs) (with one exception in Ontario) created as a standard geographic unit for analysis of regional economic activity.

Census Tract

Area that is small and relatively stable. Census tracts usually have a population of 2,500 to 8,000. They are in large urban centres that must have an urban core population of 50,000 or more.

Federal Electoral District

Area represented by a Member of Parliament (MP) elected to the House of Commons.

Dissemination Area

Small area composed of one or more neighbouring blocks, with a population of 400 to 700 persons. All of Canada is divided into dissemination areas.

Forward Sortation Area

Area composed of the first three digits of the postal code which is a six-character code defined and maintained by Canada Post Corporation for the purpose of sorting and delivering mail.

"000" Residue

Please note that codes have been created for residues. They consist of the province/territory code followed by zeroes. This residual category reflects statistical units in Canada where there is insufficient information to precisely locate the locations within a census division/census subdivision as determined by the 2016 Standard Geographical Classification.

Industry Codes—North American Industry Classification System

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system developed by the statistical agencies of Canada, Mexico and the United States. Created, it's designed to provide common definitions of the industrial structure of the 3 countries and a common statistical framework to facilitate the analysis of the 3 economies. NAICS is based on supply or production-oriented principles, to ensure that industrial data, classified to NAICS, are suitable for the analysis of production-related issues such as industrial performance.

NAICS is a system encompassing all economic activities. It has a hierarchical structure.

NAICS is a system encompassing all economic activities. It has a hierarchical structure.
NAICS Structure
Sectors 2 digits
Sub-sectors 3 digits
Industry Groups 4 digits
Industries 5 digits
National Industries 6 digits

Please note that the 5-digit codes are not included in any Business Register tables.


These revenues are derived mostly from administrative files from C.R.A. (Canada Revenue Agency). They're based on both corporations' income tax revenues and GST sales remittances. These data are at first edited and imputed before being used as input for other processes. For simple units, attached to only one legal entity, the revenue is derived from a regression model using the GST sales as independent variable, the income tax revenue being the dependent variable. For the complex units, aggregated revenue is first determined at the enterprise level. This value is afterward distributed at the establishment and location levels based on the profiled revenue distribution from the Business Register.

Contact us

Business Register Dissemination Unit
Data Integration Infrastructure Division
Statistics Canada
Jean Talon Building, 3rd Floor
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0T6