By Keri Algar

SYDNEY, NSW: The number of actively trading retail businesses in Australia dropped more than twice the national average in 2008 and 2009, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The retail trade registered a -2.4 per cent change while the national average across all industries was -1 per cent.  The health care and social assistance industry was one of the few to experience a positive growth of 1 per cent.

The ABS suggests the negative growth is due to a decrease in new business registrations during the 2008 and 2009 period rather than an increase in exit rates, which it said have remained steady for the past two financial years.

However, the figures reveal that the retail industry has witnessed a lower than average survival rate of operating businesses from 2007 to 2009, and a higher than average exit rate.

On a positive note, the survival of retail business entries during 2007 and 2008 was 75.7 per cent, well above the national rate of 71.1 per cent.

The figures also show that the majority of Australian businesses employ less than 20 staff and have an annual turnover of less than $2 million.