Increasing Number of Free Agent Entrepreneurs

(p. A3) A tiny segment of U.S. manufacturing appears to be thriving–the one with no employees.
A mix of technology, economic necessity and adventure is leading more Americans to found companies that plan to stay very small. That entrepreneurial spark also highlights challenges facing the economy, from difficulty re-entering the job market to the diminishing role of fast-growing young firms.
Nicholas Hollows wants to be his own boss, and not anyone else’s.
“I definitely don’t intend to switch my role from a person who makes things to a person who manages people,” said the 32-year-old sole proprietor of Hollows Leather in Eugene, Ore. “Being hands-on is the whole reason I do this.”
The number of businesses classified as manufacturers with no employees has been rising steadily since the depths of the recession. The tiny operations often make food, craft beer, toiletries or other niche products. Their growth stands out in a sector that has been shedding workers for decades.
U.S. food manufacturers with no employee but the owner nearly doubled from 2004 to 2014. One-worker beverage and tobacco makers expanded 150%. Such chemical manufacturers–a category that includes makers of soap and perfume–grew almost 70%.
In all, there were more than 350,000 manufacturing establishments with no employee other than the owner in 2014, up almost 17% from 2004, according to the most recent Commerce Department data. By comparison, there were 292,543 establishments with other employees, down 12%. The shift creates a challenge for building back the number of jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

For the full story, see:
Sparshott, Jeffrey. “Tiny Firms Stay That Way.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec. 29, 2016): A3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 28, 2016, and has the title “Big Growth in Tiny Businesses.”)

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