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Small Business Employment in the US: The Current State and How to Thrive

By Nick Mann 🔹


When many people hear the word “business,” they envision large retail chains, franchises, and conglomerates generating millions or billions of revenue. But in reality, the vast majority of US businesses are small. After all, as the old saying goes, “Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.”


In this post, we’ll provide a current snapshot of the state of small business employment in the US and offer practical advice on how to grow your business by becoming part of a community of like-minded people.


Small Business Employment Statistics

For perspective on just how integral small businesses are to the US economy, here are some fascinating statistics from the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy


First, as of 2023, 99.9% of American businesses were classified as small with fewer than 500 employees. While I knew small businesses were still alive and well, I didn’t realize this number was anywhere near that high.


Although mega brands like Walmart and Amazon create millions of jobs (Walmart alone employs nearly 1.6 million workers in America), small businesses employ a significant number of workers. In 2023, that number totaled 61.7 million Americans and accounted for 46.4% of private sector employees. In terms of private sector payroll, that translates into 39.4%.


It should also be noted that over 8 out of 10 small businesses are run by a single owner and have no employees (27.1 million out of 33.3 million).


Small Businesses by Employee size

Breakdown of small businesses by employee size
Breakdown of small businesses by employee size

Source: Forbes


In terms of the overall number of US-based businesses, the growth is by no means staggering. However, it’s remained steady over the past seven years. According to The SBA, the total number of American small businesses has grown from 29.6 million in 2017 to 31.7 million in 2020 to 33.3 million in 2023.


Number of small businesses in the US - 2017 to 2023
Number of small businesses in the US - 2017 to 2023

Source: Oberlo


Keep in mind, that this has all happened amidst the COVID pandemic, which brought much of the global economy to its knees.


And when you look back over the last 25 years, small businesses created 17.3 million new jobs between 1995 and 2021. So not only are small businesses still going strong, they play a vital role in the overall US economy.   


Small Business Owners Go By Many Names

It’s also important to note that the term “small business owner” can apply to many types of people. Here are some examples of individuals that fall under this umbrella.


●      Independent contractors 

●      Startup co-founders

●      Solopreneurs

●      Micropreneurs

●      Mompreneurs

●      Freelancers

●      Advisors

●      Consultants

●      Entrepreneurs

●      Creators

●      Indie developers

●      Soloists


As you can see, “small business owner” can encompass many types of businesses. It can also apply to professionals across a wide variety of industries, with diverse skill sets, backgrounds, and points of view.

 

Regardless of the particular label used, the needs of all small business owners are the same. Everyone can benefit from the support of others who are in the same boat. And collaborating within a nurturing environment can help everyone involved.


This brings us to our next point.


The Importance of Having a Small Business Support System

In an article about the stress of starting and running a small business, the Head of Communication at Buffer, Hailley Griffis, references data from a Capital One Study that found:


●      53% of small business owners report feeling at least some mental exhaustion

●      47% report feeling “run down and drained”

●      42% experience full-on burnout


Because of the uncertainty and challenges that often come with small business ownership, Griffis talks about the importance of having a support system. In her own words, “Having a space to share the ups and downs of small business ownership and having people around you who understand your challenges can help make you more resilient and able to weather the storm that is small business ownership.”


Beyond that, having a community to reach out to for advice and networking opportunities can be invaluable not only for business growth but also for your personal development. This type of support system can come in many different ways. Real-life business relationships are a good starting point. But one of the best strategies is to tap into a passionate community of professionals who share the same vision.


Using Cove to Find Opportunities and Spark Growth

Scalable Business Hub owner and Cove co-founder Alexandra Loos talks about her personal experience starting a small business saying, “I know how tough it can be to go from working a regular job to becoming a small business owner. After transitioning from being an employee for many years to becoming a solopreneur, I felt quite lonely initially. Even though I was growing my business and seeing positive results, I still felt small and powerless compared to larger competitors. And even after a few years of running my business, I still lacked marketing and business development experience.”


This is a feeling I think many small business owners can relate to, which is exactly why it’s so crucial to leverage resources where you can find help and support.


The good news is that you don’t have to handle everything alone. There are plenty of other people out there who have similar goals and facing the same challenges. And you can help one another grow and prosper in your small business endeavors.


A great example of this is Cove — a digital community that caters to all types of small business owners across a wide variety of industries.


Cove.eco Collaborate and scale your small business with the Cove community
Cove.eco Collaborate and scale your small business with the Cove community

The primary purpose of Cove is to provide opportunities for small business owners to collaborate, network, learn, share resources, and market, all within a supportive online community ecosystem. Note that, coming soon, there will also be events that members can join for additional value and educational content.


 Say, for example, you have an idea for a new business project. You can ask for professional input to figure out if it’s something worth pursuing and bounce ideas off of one another.


If you’re looking for recommendations on tools to use to run your business more efficiently, you can get feedback from other users and learn about the pros and cons of a potential platform.


Cove.eco What tools do you recommend to send files securely?
Cove.eco What tools do you recommend to send files securely?

If you want to collaborate with other Cove members, you can conveniently do so, while targeting specific expertise like accounting, business development, finance, marketing, and more.


And as Cove grows, members will have more opportunities to seek help within the community rather than spending time recruiting. Not to mention, members can celebrate each other’s achievements and provide valuable encouragement.


You can learn more about Cove and join our passionate business community here.


And to stay up-to-date on recent conversations involving collaboration, business growth, and small business news, subscribe to the Cove email newsletter. 


About the Author

Nick Mann is a freelance writer/content strategist focusing on business, marketing, finance, and tech. Through his content, his goal is to help small businesses generate quality leads to grow and thrive. 



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