Friday, June 6, 2014

Missing America's Missing Workers

There is one interesting aspect of the U.S. employment situation that gets almost no mainstream media coverage.  

Let's open with this graph from FRED showing the number of self-employed workers that are not incorporated:

Note that the number of non-incorporated self-employed workers in the United States is at levels not seen since 1992.  It's also important to note that the number of non-incorporated self employed workers has grown very little since the end of the Great Recession.

Now, here's a graph showing the number of self-employed workers that are incorporated:

We have to go back to late 2005 to find levels of incorporated self-employed workers to match the current level of 5.384 million persons.  It's also important to again note that the growth level seen in the years before the Great Recession have not been repeated, rather, the number of incorporated self-employed workers has remained rather static.

If we add the two groups of self-employed workers together, we get this:

The current level of 14.71 million self-employed Americans is down 11.1 percent or 1.85 million from its peak of 16.561 seen in December 2006 and is at the same level last seen in October 2002, over a decade ago.  Let's repeat that.  Since December 2006, a total of 1.85 million self-employed workers have disappeared.

Let's look at how important self-employed workers have been to the American employment situation.  This graph shows the percentage of self-employed workers among all workers in the United States:

Between 2002 and 2010, self-employed workers made up between 11.4 and 12.2 percent of all workers in the United States.  Since early 2010, this has gradually fallen to its current level of 10.64 percent, the lowest level since January 2000 when tracking of incorporated self-employed workers began.

Right now, there are 138.252 million workers in the United States.  This is almost the exact number of workers that there were at the beginning of 2008.  While it is merely conjecture on my part, it would seem that if the number of self-employed workers was closer to the levels of the pre-Great Recession period, America's employment picture would look somewhat less dismal.  In my opinion, if you trust the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau's monthly Current Population Survey, it speaks to the ongoing weakness in the economy.  America's model of free enterprise was built on the hard labor of its small businessmen and businesswomen who served as the "incubators" for economic growth.  It looks like that aspect of the American economy is slowly but surely becoming extinct in the face of the post-Great Recession economic realities.

1 comment:

  1. Small business, with two to ten employees, are becoming an endangered species in America. The family business once the backbone of this country is under attack from the unintended consequences of the many laws and mandates passed in recent years. Inspections, a plethora of permits, licenses, taxes, insurance requirements, and regulations make it almost impossible for a small business to open, compete, and operate legally. Big government has become toxic for small business. I have written several articles that delve into this subject one of them can be found below.