15 cities with the most self-employment

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    Happy businesswoman working from home
    Flamingo Images / Shutterstock.com

    This story originally appeared on HireAHelper.

    According to the latest data from the US Census Bureau, there are more than 15.3 million self-employed nationally. While the COVID-19 pandemic had a drastic impact on the overall economy, many small business owners and other self-employed were particularly hard hit.

    Two different data sources – the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – have set the national self-employment rate for 2019 in the range of 9.6% to 10%. Recently updated data from the BLS reported a 10% jump. The total number of self-employed actually fell to 10.5% in 2020 between 2019 and 2020.

    The rise in the self-employment rate can be explained both by an increase in the number of self-employed operating their own registered businesses and by a decrease in the total number of employees. There was a sharp surge in new business applications in the US in 2020, suggesting that some workers are likely to have become self-employed after losing their jobs due to the pandemic.

    The self-employed and the performance of their companies are of vital importance to the economy. Research by the Pew Research Center suggests that while self-employed only make up 10% of the workforce, they employ an additional 20%, or about 30 million additional workers.

    To find the cities with the most self-employed people, HireAHelper researchers used data from the US Census Bureau.

    Listed here are the major US metropolitan areas (population 1 million or more) with the highest number of self-employed, followed by details of our methodology.

    15. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA.

    Riverside, California at night
    MattGush / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.0%
    • Total number of self-employed: 202,298
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 30.4%
    • Most over-indexed branch for self-employed: retail
    • Median income for full-time self-employed: $ 45,457
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 46,260

    14. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

    Orlando skyline
    Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.1%
    • Total number of self-employed: 132,951
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 45.9%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: transportation and storage and utilities
    • Median income for the self-employed (full-time): $ 40,406
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 40,823

    13. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN

    Nashville, Tennessee
    jdross75 / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.2%
    • Total number of self-employed: 104,743
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 28.2%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: information
    • Median salary for full-time self-employed: $ 50,507
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 48,749

    12. Tucson, AZ

    Tucson, AZ
    Sean-Pavone / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.3%
    • Total number of self-employed: 47,819
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 27.2%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: Manufacturing
    • Median income for full-time self-employed: $ 45,457
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 41,969

    11. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

    Portland, Oregon
    photomatz / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.3%
    • Total number of self-employed: 132,938
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 38.2%
    • Most over-indexed sector for the self-employed: educational services as well as health and social assistance
    • Median income for the self-employed (full-time): $ 60,609
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 56,999

    10. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, CA.

    At home in Sacramento, California
    Victoria Ditkovsky / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.4%
    • Total number of self-employed: 117,395
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 29.5%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: transportation and storage and utilities
    • Median income for the self-employed (full-time): $ 52,022
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 55,665

    9. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

    Denver skyline
    Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.5%
    • Total number of self-employed: 173,501
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 45.0%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: information
    • Median income for the self-employed (full-time): $ 60,609
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 58,633

    8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

    Tampa, Florida
    picturin / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.6%
    • Total number of self-employed: 159,600
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 46.7%
    • Most over-indexed sector for the self-employed: finance and insurance as well as real estate as well as rental and leasing
    • Median income for full-time self-employed: $ 45,457
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 45,007

    7. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA.

    San Francisco neighborhood.
    Bertl123 / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 10.6%
    • Total number of self-employed: 269,821
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 29.5%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: Professional, scientific and management, administrative and waste disposal services
    • Median income for the self-employed (full-time): $ 70,710
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 76,764

    6. Oklahoma City, OK

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Austin Urton / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 11.0%
    • Total number of self-employed: 74,237
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 35.6%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: agriculture and forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining
    • Median salary for full-time self-employed: $ 50,507
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 45,551

    5. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX

    Austin, Texas
    Roschetzky Photography / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 11.3%
    • Total number of self-employed: 138,530
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 35.8%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: information
    • Median income for the self-employed (full-time): $ 51,012
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 52,453

    4. New Orleans Metairie, LA

    New Orleans
    Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 11.6%
    • Total number of self-employed: 70,503
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 35.4%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: information
    • Median salary for full-time self-employed: $ 50,507
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 45,401

    3. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA.

    The San Diego skyline, where the median rent is well below the median mortgage payments
    Dancestrokes / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 12.1%
    • Total number of self-employed: 196,477
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 29.6%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: information
    • Median salary for full-time self-employed: $ 50,507
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 54,584

    2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA.

    los Angeles
    ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 13.2%
    • Total number of self-employed: 876,710
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 31.4%
    • Most over-indexed industry for the self-employed: information
    • Median salary for full-time self-employed: $ 50,507
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 50,394

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    1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

    Miami, Florida
    littleny / Shutterstock.com
    • Proportion of self-employed: 13.8%
    • Total number of self-employed: 426,661
    • Proportion of self-employed in registered companies: 47.6%
    • Most over-indexed branch for the self-employed: Wholesale
    • Median income for the self-employed (full-time): $ 40,406
    • Median income for all employee (full-time): $ 40,790

    methodology

    Entering data on a laptop
    baranq / Shutterstock.com

    To find the cities with the most self-employment, HireAHelper researchers used data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) (2019) and the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS PUMS). The researchers ranked the metropolitan areas according to the proportion of self-employed, including those in registered and unregistered companies. In the event of a tie, the subway with the larger number of self-employed was rated higher overall.

    The researchers also calculated the proportion of self-employed in registered businesses, the most heavily indexed industry for the self-employed, and the median earnings for both full-time self-employed and all full-time employees. The most heavily indexed self-employed sector was identified as the sector within a metro that shows the greatest difference in the proportion of self-employed compared to this sector at the national level. The average income for the self-employed was calculated using the ACS PUMS. All other statistics come from the ACS.

    In order to improve the relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 inhabitants were included in the analysis.

    Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation for clicking links in our stories.

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