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The Business Dynamics Statistics: Describing the Evolution of the U.S. Economy from 1978-2019

Working Paper Number CES-21-33
CHRISTOPHER GOETZ AND MARTHA STINSON

Abstract

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Business Dynamics Statistics (BDS) provide annual measures of how many businesses begin, end, or continue their operations and the associated job creation and destruction. The BDS is a valuable resource for information on the U.S. economy because of its long time series (1978-2019), its complete coverage (all private sector, non-farm U.S. businesses), and its tabulations for both individual establishments and the firms that own and control them. In this paper, we use the publicly available BDS data to describe the dynamics of the economy over the past 40 years. We highlight the increasing concentration of employment at old and large firms and describe net job creation trends in the manufacturing, retail, information, food/accommodations, and healthcare industry sectors. We show how the spatial distribution of employment has changed, first moving away from the largest cities and then back again. Finally, we show long-run trends for a group of industries we classify as high-tech and explore how the share of employment at small and young firms has changed for this part of the economy.

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