Jun 2, 2023 - Economy

The end of the self-employment boom

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The self-employment boom we saw during the pandemic recovery seems to have fizzled out.

Why it matters: We're not in a YOLO economy anymore. The days of quitting your job to follow your dreams peaked in mid-2021.

  • Some of those efforts worked out — the number of people who formed an actual business employing themselves continues to rise. But in other cases, the self-employed effectively quit on themselves in order to take a job with an employer.
  • In May, the number of unincorporated self-employed Americans fell by 369,000. Many of them will have been among the 339,000 workers added to formal payrolls last month.

By the numbers: There are now 8.73 million Americans who are self-employed without owning their own company. That's down from a peak of 9.51 million in August 2021, and it's even lower than the 8.89 million registered in January 2020, before the pandemic hit.

  • Between the lines: Some of the fall might be attributable to the Hollywood writers' strike, notes The American Prospect's David Dayen.

The bottom line: When there are plenty of jobs to go around, Americans increasingly seem inclined to take one of them, rather than follow the dream of self-employment.

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