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Silver Lining: There Are Half A Million More Self-Employed Americans Since COVID-19 Began
A man walks his dog past a placard stating "ALL SMALL BUSINESS IS ESSENTIAL" outside Atilis Gym on May 20, 2020 in Bellmawr, New Jersey.
Mark Makela/Getty Images

COVID-19 and the lockdown-induced recession dealt economic blows to millions of Americans. The past eighteen months, however, have also seen record levels of entrepreneurial activity in the United States.

According to an analysis of federal data from The Wall Street Journal:

The number of unincorporated self-employed workers has risen by 500,000 since the start of the pandemic, Labor Department data show, to 9.44 million. That is the highest total since the financial-crisis year 2008, except for this summer. The total amounts to an increase of 6% in the self-employed, while the overall U.S. employment total remains nearly 3% lower than before the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs applied for federal tax-identification numbers to register 4.54 million new businesses from January through October this year, up 56% from the same period of 2019, Census Bureau data show. That was the largest number on records that date back to 2004. Two-thirds were for businesses that aren’t expected to hire employees.

This year, the share of U.S. workers who work for a company with at least 1,000 employees has fallen for the first time since 2004, Labor Department data show. Meanwhile, the percentage of U.S. workers who are self-employed has risen to the highest in 11 years. In October, they represented 5.9% of U.S. workers, versus 5.4% in February 2020.

The Journal featured the story of Kimberly Friddle — a 50-year-old who quit her job as a marketing executive for a mortgage company, instead opting to stay at home, help her children with virtual schooling, and eventually launched a logistics firm.

“I didn’t have a plan when I left,” she told the outlet. “I wasn’t giving enough attention to the needs of my family. I wasn’t giving enough attention to the job that needed to be done. I felt like I was failing everywhere.”

Now, Friddle says: “I feel so successful and I wake up every day like, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen today.’”

The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate, however, threatens to make life difficult for thriving small businesses. If enacted, the White House’s mandate — which applies to businesses with 100 or more employees — would use the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to levy fines as high as $13,653 per violation on noncompliant businesses. If firms accrue “willful or repeated” violations, the agency may enact fines as high as $136,532.

Accordingly, the National Federation of Independent Businesses — a leading small business advocacy group — released a statement that condemned the mandate.

“Small business owners continue to face numerous challenges to operate, stay open, and pay their employees, and today’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard makes that even more difficult and troublesome,” said Karen Harned, who leads the NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center. “NFIB remains opposed to this rule that restricts the freedom of small business owners to decide how best to operate their own businesses and imposes unwarranted burdens on small businesses that further threaten the small business recovery.”

The Daily Wire has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate and will be represented by The Dhillon Law Group, Inc. and Alliance Defending Freedom. Jeremy Boreing, co-founder and co-CEO of The Daily Wire, declared that “forcing Americans to choose between their livelihoods and their freedom is a grotesque abuse of power and we won’t be a party to it.” 

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