According to a June 24, 2010 data release from the Census Bureau, the number of nonemployer businesses (i.e. the self-employed) saw a big drop in 2008, the latest year for this data. Overall, the number of US nonemployer businesses dropped by 1.6 percent between 2007 and 2008. All states (with the exception of Texas and Washington DC) saw a decline in these numbers, with Maine, Delaware and Nevada posting the biggest declines. The housing crisis explains a lot of these results, as the data show big drops in the real estate and construction sectors.
Despite the decline, nonemployer businesses are an important part of the US economic landscape. Nationwide, there were 21.4 million nonemployer firms in 2008. While they account for a large number of firms, they make up a small part of total firm receipts (only 4%) in the US. Nonetheless, I often view these firms as part of our entrepreneurial “bench strength.” Many of these ventures can evolve into larger, faster-growing businesses. And, in many places, self-employment is an important and vital economic lifeline. Wayne County, Michigan—the home to Detroit—saw a large scale increase (Up 6.8%) in these firms. These figures can be viewed as a sign of econmic desperation or, hopefully, a sign that a new, and more entreprneuerial, community is on the rise.
A press release describing the results can be accessed here: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/business_ownership/cb10-93.html