How Many Americans Are Self-Employed in 2020?

The benefits of self-employment are clear—work flexibility, not having to answer to a boss, getting to choose what you want to do, and more.

If you’re thinking about becoming a self-employed worker in the US, it helps to get an overview of the trends, numbers, and statistics about self-employment. More specifically, understand how many Americans are self-employed.

According to the latest figures released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of August 2020, the number of self-employed in the US is 9.544 million. This is a 3.35 percent increase from the previous month and a 1.4 percent year-over-year decrease. 

Coronavirus Impact on the Number of Self-Employed in the US

The August figures follow a massive dip in April 2020, during which the number of self-employed in the US fell 13.01 percent from the previous month to 8.245 million. This was also a 10.9 percent year-over-year plunge. 

Furthermore, not only was this the first time the number of self-employed workers in the US fell below nine million in more than ten years, but it was also the biggest decrease from one month to the next.

The decline was caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in work losses and business closures for many of the self-employed in the US. This comes as no surprise, as self-employed workers are among the most vulnerable during economic downturns and tend to be the first ones to be made redundant as businesses scale back to cut costs.

According to the BLS, self-employed workers were “much more likely” to have lost work as a result of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic than workers in the private and government sectors. 

In fact, as of August 2020, more than one in five (22.3 percent) of self-employed workers in the US reported having been unable to work at some point in the past month as a result of the pandemic. In comparison, just eight percent of workers in the private sector and 5.7 percent of public workers faced the same difficulty. 

This is already a stark improvement from just three months prior in May, during which up to 40 percent of self-employed workers said they weren’t able to work. This figure was also particularly high for private and government workers at 18.5 percent and 12.5 percent respectively.

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