Nonemployer Firms' Challenges

The 12 Federal Reserve Banks have released the 2019 Small Business Credit Survey: Report on Nonemployer Firms. This latest report provides an in-depth look at the financial experiences and challenges of these firms, businesses with no full-or part-time employees. The survey yielded responses from over 5,800 businesses and is weighted to reflect the U.S. population of nonemployer firms.

The report, survey questionnaire, and other data are on FedSmallBusiness along with previous Federal Reserve researchers' reports and papers on small business–related topics.

The 2019 report, based on the Small Business Credit Survey fielded in the third and fourth quarters of 2018,1 underscores the importance of understanding the financial characteristics of these firms. The report highlights that, despite being a key income source for their owners, these firms face acute profitability and financing challenges. Key findings include:

  • Nonemployer firms are an important income source for their owners. Nearly two-thirds of nonemployer firms (63 percent) serve as the primary source of income for their owner(s).
  • One in five nonemployer firms was started because the owner lacked other employment options.
  • Despite their owners’ reliance on the firm for income, a majority of nonemployer firms are either unprofitable or are operating at break even.
  • One in four nonemployers anticipates hiring employees in the future.
  • Nonemployer firms seeking capital face significant obstacles, with more than half experiencing financing shortfalls.

For further results and details on nonemployer businesses nationally, check out the 2019 Small Business Credit Survey: Report on Nonemployer Firms at FedSmallBusiness.org.

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1 The Small Business Credit Survey report adopted a name change this year. While previous reports were titled for the year the survey was conducted, now the report title reflects the calendar year the report is released.