The benefits of self-employment are clear—work flexibility, not having to answer to a boss, getting to choose the work 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 January 2021, the number of self-employed people in the US is 9.548 million. This is 0.92 percent more than the previous month and a 0.56 percent year-over-year decrease. 

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

January 2021 figures are a massive improvement from the tumble in April 2020, during which the number of self-employed in the US fell 12.88 percent from the previous month to 8.247 million. This was also a 10.86 percent year-over-year decrease. 

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 January 2021, around one in six (15.7 percent) self-employed workers in the US reported that they were unable to work at some point in the past month as a result of the pandemic. In comparison, just 4.7 percent of workers in the private sector and 2.9 percent of public workers faced the same difficulty. 

However, this is already a stark improvement from May 2020, 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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