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July 1984, Vol. 107, No. 7
an update to 1983
Even in this age of big business, there are still many individuals who work for themselves. Between 1976 and 1983, the number of self-employed Americans increased each year, posting an overall gain of 23 percent, or 1.7 million.1 In fact, self-employment among American workers has been increasing for almost a decade and a half, barely pausing for cyclical downturns.
When agricultural self-employment is separated from nonagriculture, two pictures emerge. Agricultural self-employment, which had been decreasing for decades, continued to decline through the mid-1970's. Since 1976, it has held steady at about 1.6 million. Nonagricultural self-employment, in contrast, has increased each year since 1970, when it was 5.2 million, to 1983, when it was 7.6 million, an increase of more than 45 percent. 2
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1 This report primarily covers trends since 1979, as it updates T. Scott Fain, "Self-employed Americans: their number has increased," Monthly Labor Review, November 1980, pp. 3-8. It is based on data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households conducted for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Census Bureau. Self-employed persons are defined as those who work for profit or fees in their own business, profession, or trade, or operate a farm.
2 The size of the nonagricultural self-employed class corresponds closely tobut by no means totally explainsthe difference between two independently derived estimates of nonagricultural employment. In 1983, the Current Population Survey (household survey) provided an estimate of 97.5 million nonagricultural workers, while the Current Employment Statistics (establishment survey) program produced an estimate of 90.0 million. In addition to the coverage differences, the two surveys differs in terms of both concept and methodology.
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