Enterprise held steady in the West Midlands last year in the face of the financial crisis as people set up to work for themselves, new figures have claimed.

In 2008, the year the financial crisis finally hit the global economy, 41,500 new businesses were started in the West Midlands, compared to 41,800 the year before, according to figures from Barclays.

And Barclays said the “robust” market showed that setting up in business was still an attractive option, even at the height of the global economic meltdown.

John Addison, the area manager for the bank in Birmingham, said: “These figures may seem surprising given the current economic climate. There could be a number of reasons for the robust start-up market, including individuals being made redundant having opted for self-employment. We should also remember that there are always opportunities, even in more challenging times.”

And the robust start-up market was buoyed by the increasing number of women going into what had traditionally been a more male-dominated sector.

“It appears women more than men are bucking the downturn by starting a business,” Mr Addison added. “We know from our Let’s Talk Starting in business seminars that almost half of people attending are women, which is a notably high percentage considering men still make up the majority of all start-ups. Perhaps with women showing more interest, we will in the future see equal number of businesses started up for both men and women.”

Research has claimed that businesses run by women have a better chance of withstanding a recession, because women entrepreneurs often operate with lower debt levels and better networking abilities.

Jackie Brierton, the head of the online Women’s Business Centre for the West Midlands, said last year that more women were starting to think about business as a potential career, and it had been a successful option for many.”