Everyone agrees on a broad level that small businesses are vital to the American economy. However, most people would be surprised to know just how important. The United States Small Business Administration keeps records and statistics on small business in the United States and some of their findings are surprising.
First, the typical perception of a small business as a mom and pop operation with just a few, if any, employees is not the entire picture. The Small Business Administration defines a small business as an independently business with less than 500 employees. There are an estimated 23 million businesses in the United States that meet that classification. In some smaller towns in the United States, these businesses represent a major source of employment.
In fact, small businesses as defined by the Small Business Administration represent 99.7 percent of all the employers in the country and employ half of all private sector employees. More than 45% of the private sector payroll is generated by small business. Over the last decade small businesses have accounted for 60 to 80% of all new jobs created on an annual basis.
Although a large percentage of small businesses are in the retail and service sectors, small businesses are rapidly making gains in the technology sector. 41% of high tech workers like engineers, scientists and computer programmers are employed by small businesses. Employees at small businesses produce 13 to 14 times more patents than those employed by larger companies.
The Small Business Administration also offers some interesting observations on small business survival. Two-thirds of small businesses survive for at least two years declining to 44% after four years. Most of the factors that support a small business surviving are well known, such as access to capital and owner’s education level. However, a lesser known factor in small business survival is that the business is large enough to have employees.
Similarly, barriers to starting a small business include lack of access to start-up capital and lack of education. However, the number one barrier to small business start up and a primary concern of existing small business owners is access to private health insurance. Individual health insurance for sole proprietors is much more expensive than receiving coverage through an employer. If a small business owner is able to offer health insurance to its employees, the administrative and premium costs are often much higher than those for larger businesses.