Brian Mark Weber / January 21, 2022

Millions of People Quit Jobs to Start Businesses

Not all was bad in 2021, given the entrepreneurial spirit of so many Americans.

With 11 million job openings but only six million people looking for work, the question we should be asking — and that we have been asking — is this: Where are all the workers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43 million Americans quit their jobs between January and November of last year. The vast majority took other jobs for higher wages or more general satisfaction. Others chose a different path.

Take entrepreneurs, for example. While many Americans took advantage of COVID lockdowns and mask mandates by cashing stimulus checks and playing video games, others saw an opportunity. Instead of relying on someone else to offer them a job, they’re creating their own.

“After the onset of the pandemic, online microbusiness ownership grew fastest among groups hit hardest by the economic fallout,” the Brookings Institution reports. “Black owners account for 26% of all new microbusinesses, up from 15% before the pandemic. Similarly, women-owned businesses surged to 57% of new microbusiness starts, up from 48%. Microbusinesses also became a more popular option for those without a college degree, rising from 36% to 44%.”

Now, these aren’t numbers we’re likely to hear on the evening news anytime soon. But it shows just how resourceful Americans have become during a challenging period in which traditional jobs are less reliable.

According to one report by MBO Partners, the number of independent workers in 2021 increased 34% to 51.1 million. There are several key factors: the flexibility of working at home, supplementing incomes, fear over job insecurity in traditional workplaces, and the fact that the Internet has made it far easier to start a business at home.

Another study by Upwork.com, a platform where members offer a range of online services, reveals that 59 million Americans performed freelance work last year. Additionally, more of them are freelancing full-time, “half of the Gen Z workforce (age 18-22) have freelanced in the past year,” and half of freelancers offer professional services such as computer programming.

“It is reasonable to assume,” writes author and market researcher Pamela Danziger, “that all those entrepreneurs starting retail, professional services, other services, and transportation companies came out of and know those industries well enough to bring new perspectives and innovative solutions to each. It’s just what the U.S. economy needs after the blow it’s taken from the lockdowns and the Biden administration’s failed economic policies.”

Americans leaving their jobs are not jumping ship and blindly taking online gigs to pay the bills. Apparently, many of them are taking advantage of the opportunity to train for another job by taking courses. Fortune reports: “About 78% of employees who quit in the last six months took an online course, according to a new report from global education company Cengage that surveyed 1,200 U.S. workers who recently left their jobs. Nearly two-thirds of respondents, 64%, said this training was integral to landing their next job.”

It’s great to know that so many Americans are fulfilling their dreams by starting businesses, taking courses to train for a new job, or finding professional jobs where they can work from home and be their own bosses. But we still need plumbers and electricians, and hotel, restaurant, and factory workers, so there are real issues related to employment that we need to resolve.

Danziger offers an optimistic view, though. “If entrepreneurship is the foundation of America’s economic success,” she says, “then America is headed for even greater greatness in the years ahead as growing legions of enterprising entrepreneurs turn their talents, energy, and experience to new businesses. The American Dream is alive and well in America in 2022.”

And that’s a bit of good news we all need to hear right now.

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