There were 22.5 million U.S. businesses that didn’t have any paid employees in 2011, 1.7 percent more than in the year before, about 75 percent of total businesses. They reported $990 billion in total revenue, up 4.1 percent from 2010. About 18 million non-employer businesses, or about 80 percent of the total, reported receipts of less than $50,000. By non-employer businesses, we’re talking about a wide-ranging group, from freelance writers and fashion designers to real estate agents and taxi drivers who work for themselves—as well as necessity entrepreneurs who were pushed into self-employment by a rough job market in recent years.
Those numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau, which released its annual report on non-employer businesses yesterday. As for where they worked and what jobs they did, a couple of tidbits worth noting:
• The number of non-employer businesses in North Dakota increased 4.3 percent, while the state’s non-employers’ sales increased 13.2 percent, to $2.3 billion. That’s the biggest sales increase nationwide. (Check out Kasia Klimasinska’s story on the complementary service businesses women are starting in North Dakota, sparked by the shale boom.)
• Finance, insurance, and construction were the only industries nationwide to show fewer non-employers in 2011 than in 2010.
• Fittingly, the fastest-growing sector in 2011 was what the Census Bureau lumps into “other services,” which includes auto repair, beauty salons, and dry cleaners.
One reason the economy of non-employers might keep growing: The Affordable Care Act, the bulk of which takes effect next year, will make it easier for self-employed Americans to buy their own health insurance. To that end, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that their ranks will swell by 1.5 million in 2014.