One-Man-Band Businesses Are Not Playing So Well

Chances are you know a number of people with one-man-band businesses -- proprietors who work for themselves and don't have any paid employees. Real estate agents, beauticians and handy men are good examples of "nonemployer businesses." While those individually-run operations used to be common, they're not so much any more. Their number has dropped by more than 260,000 across the United States over a recent two-year period, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

They are decreasing by a little over a percent per year, at a time when the general population is growing, and other types of businesses are growing as well, albeit at a snail's pace. "Non-employer firms generate a small percentage of total U.S. business receipts, but they constitute the majority of U.S. businesses," said William G. Bostic Jr., associate director for economic programs at the U.S. Census Bureau.

It's the real estate industry where these very small businesses are taking the biggest hit, in response to the housing market downturn. Agents, brokers, leasing agents and other jobs in the field, such as appraisers and managers, lost about 145,000 one-man-band firms.

But it's not all bad news for these smallest of businesses. Their numbers actually increased in three states: Texas, which added the most (8,260); followed by Georgia (3,336) and Louisiana (1,871). Harris County, Texas, added the most one-man-band businesses, 8,748, followed by Fulton County, Ga., which gained 3,767.

And there are a few industries that are actually increasing their one-man-band numbers. These include the personal-care services industry -- barbers and hairstylists for example. The child daycare services industry is also experiencing upticks in soul proprietors.

Even though these businesses' numbers are dwindling, they still generated approximately $837.8 billion in receipts during the last year measured. Perhaps one of the reasons that their ranks are being diminished is that some are doing so well that the proprietors can afford to hire other workers. That's an optimistic explanation, but we need all the optimism we can get these days.

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