CES - Discussion paper series, DPS14.25 pages:1-53
Firm turnover and growth recorded in administrative data sets differ from underlying firm dynamics. By tracing the employment history of the workforce of new and disappearing administrative firm identifiers, we can accurately identify de novo entrants and true economic exits, even when firms change identifier, merge, or split-up. For a well-defined group of new firms entering the Belgian economy between 2004 and 2011, we find highly regular post-entry employment dynamics in spite of the volatile macroeconomic environment. Exit rates decrease with age and size. Surviving entrants record high employment growth that is monotonically decreasing with age in every size class. Most remarkably, we find that Gibrat’s law is violated for very young firms. Conditional on age, the relationship between employment growth and current size is strongly and robustly positive. This pattern is obscured, or even reversed, when administrative entrants and exits are taken at face value. De novo entrants’ contribution to job creation is relatively small and not very persistent, in particular for (the large majority of) new firms that enter with fewer than five employees.