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Business Employment Dynamics

Entrepreneurship and the U.S. Economy

Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the growth of the U.S. economy. As the primary source for information on the nation’s labor market, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects data on new businesses and job creation. The following highlights from data series produced by BLS Business Employment Dynamics (BED) program provide insight on the contribution of young and small businesses to the overall number of businesses and jobs in the economy.

Business establishment age

The BED data series on age of establishment tracks cohorts of new business establishments “born” in the same year and reports on their associated employment. The number of new business establishments (establishments that are less than 1 year old in any given year) tends to rise and fall with the business cycle of the overall economy (see chart 1). (Data by age are not available prior to 1994.)

The number of jobs created by establishments less than 1 year old has decreased from 4.1 million in 1994, when this series began, to 3 million in 2015. (See chart 2.) This trend combined with that of fewer new establishments overall indicates that the number of new jobs in each new establishment is declining.

Establishment survival

New business establishments make an important contribution to the economy; however, it is inevitable that some of these establishments will eventually fail. The BED age series tracks cohorts of new business establishments to measure how many survive from year to year. (For a full listing, see Survival rates follow a similar path, regardless of the birth year, as seen in chart 3, which compares birth cohorts from different years.

Survival rates for establishments vary by industry. The health care and social assistance industry, for example, consistently ranks among the industries with the highest survival rates over time, while construction ranks among the lowest. (See chart 4.)

Establishment births and deaths

In addition to annual birth cohorts identified by age, BLS also publishes BED data on business births and deaths on a quarterly basis. The birth and death data series is the most timely source of data available on new private sector business establishments in the United States.

As shown in chart 5, the period from 1993 to 2006 was marked by an increase in the number of births and deaths, indicating a higher amount of business “churn”—that is, new business establishments entered and old establishments exited the economy in greater numbers. After the most recent recession began in December 2007, establishment births experienced the steepest decline in the history of the series. The downward trend reversed in early 2010 and establishment births have since returned to pre-recession levels.

The number of jobs created from establishment births peaked in the late 1990s and has experienced an overall decline since then. The decrease in birth-related employment during the latest recession is the largest in the history of the series, followed closely by the period of “jobless recovery” after the 2001 recession.

Firm Size

Small businesses are typically the entry point for entrepreneurs as they develop ideas and build a customer base before deciding whether to expand. Of the nine size classes in the BED series, the six smallest (249 employees or smaller) have seen their shares of private sector employment decrease since the early 1990s, while the three largest size classes (250 or more employees) have seen their shares of total employment increase. (See chart 7.)

More information and data can be found on the BED page of the BLS website at

Also, see the following:


Last Modified Date: April 28, 2016