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Nonemployer Statistics (NES)

What is it measuring?

This dataset counts the number of business establishments in the US that have no paid employees, are subject to federal income tax, and have over $1,000 in gross receipts annually. Typically, these are independent workers.

What does it tell us?

The number of nonemployer business establishments has risen in recent years. From 2016 to 2017, the number increased 3.6 percent, from almost 25 million to almost 26 million. The largest increase has been in the transportation and warehousing sector, which grew 18.3 percent from 2016 to 2017. Within that sector, the largest increase was in taxi and limousine services.

How is it collected?

The data is extracted from business income tax records. It has been collected annually since 1997. Prior to that, it was gathered in 1972, 1977, 1987, and 1992.

Who collects it?

The US Census Bureau compiles the data using business income tax records shared by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Considerations

Nonemployer statistics rely on tax filing. Due to the complexity of filing taxes as an independent worker, many may not be filing correctly. In addition, some workers may be included twice if they filed multiple businesses. The data is available at the state, country, and metropolitan area levels.

How to access this data?

Both datasets and tables are publicly available via the Census Bureau.

Reports

Tracking the Gig Economy: New Numbers; 2016; Ian Hathaway and Mark Muro; Brookings;