While the economy has been miserable for small business, and many larger ones as well, the ranks of the self-employed have been growing. According to research by Economic Modeling Specialists International, the number of people who primarily work on their own has swelled by 1.3 million since 2001 to 10.6 million, a 14% increase.
This rise is partially reflective of hard times, and many of the self-employed earn only modest livings in fields such as childcare and construction. However the shift to self-employment is likely to accelerate in the future, and into higher-paying professions, for reasons including the ubiquity of the Internet, which makes it easier for some types of business to use independent contractors, as well as the reluctance of large firms to hire full-time employees with benefits.
Urban analyst Bill Fulton, who has looked into this issue, concludes we may be seeing a fundamental change in how the economy operates. “Even though there may not be jobs in the conventional sense, there is still work,” Fulton notes. “That’s the whole idea of the 1099 economy. It’s just a different way of organizing the economy.”