BEA is developing new statistics to better track the economic health and contributions of the nation’s small businesses. Most U.S. businesses are small, and small businesses employ millions of Americans. Policymakers, businesspeople, and many others are seeking more information about how small businesses are faring within the overall economy. While some federal economic statistics are available by business size, the United States has no consistent and comprehensive measure of small business activity.
BEA’s researchers have produced experimental estimates about small business as they work to develop a satellite account – a set of specialized statistics that supplement our core national statistics, such as gross domestic product. The challenges include defining “small business” and accessing source data needed for a Small Business Satellite Account.
Small Business Satellite Account: https://www.bea.gov/data/special-topics/small-business
Survey of Current Business (Nov 2021): Patrick Georgi, Lonna Morrow, and Tina Highfill, "Updated and Expanded Small Business Statistics Wages, Employment, and Gross Output by Industry and Enterprise Size, 2012–2017" https://apps.bea.gov/scb/2021/11-november/1121-small-business.htm
This paper presents newly released estimates of wages, employment, and gross output by industry and enterprise size for 2012 through 2017. These estimates expand on previous U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates by enterprise size in two ways. First, we increased the number of size class groupings from five to eight. Specifically, we split the small businesses category (less than 100 employees) into four subcategories: very small (0–9 employees), small 1 (10–19 employees), small 2 (20–49 employees), and small 3 (50–99 employees). We also expanded the level of detail for large businesses, splitting this category into three subcategories: large 1 (500–999 employees), large 2 (1,000–4,999 employees), and very large (5,000 or more employees). Second, we expanded the industry detail from about 20 sectors, or 2-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, to 63 industries, aligning with 3-digit NAICS codes. The full set of estimates is available on BEA's small business website: https://www.bea.gov/system/files/2021-11/wages-employment-and-go-by-enterprise-size.xlsx
Our estimates show enterprises with 5,000 or more employees garnered the largest share of private sector wages, employment, and gross output in 2017, generating more than one-third of overall economic activity for these estimates (38.4 percent, 33.8 percent, and 41.3 percent, respectively). We also find the major industries in the largest (5,000 or more employees) and smallest (0–9 employees) size classes differed from the industries prominent in the adjacent large (500–999 and 1,000–4,999 employees) and small (10–19, 20–49, 50–99 employees) size categories, highlighting the need for granular industry and size class data to understand the composition of the economy. Additional findings are discussed below, following a brief description of the methodology. The final section provides additional context to our results and describes possibilities for future research.
BEA is currently researching other ways to estimate small business statistics including using different size classes, datasets, and business characteristics. Additionally, BEA is investigating the use of private datasets to provide more timely estimates of small business statistics. We invite all interested data users to send feedback about these estimates or suggestions for future research to SmallBusiness@bea.gov.