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Census Bureau Reports U.S. Employer Firms Show Declines in Number of Establishments and Employees

2009 Marks Second Consecutive Year of Decline in Number of Establishments

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     In 2009, businesses with paid employees numbered 7.4 million, a decline of 168,000 establishments from 2008, marking the second consecutive year of decline, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Further, between 2008 and 2009, employment dropped 5.3 percent, a decrease of more than 6 million employees, for a total of 114,509,626.

     In 2008, the number of establishments decreased by about 104,000, although the number of employees increased by almost 300,000.

     These findings are from County Business Patterns: 2009, which provides the only detailed annual information on the number of establishments, employees, and first-quarter and annual payroll for most of the 1,100 industries covered at the national, state and county levels.

     The statistics are broken down according to employment-size classes (for example, number of establishments with one to four employees) and legal form of organization (for example, corporations and partnerships).

    “During the early years of the decade, the nation saw steady, if moderate growth in the number of establishments year to year,” said William G. Bostic Jr., associate director for economic programs at the U.S. Census Bureau. “In contrast, the years 2008 and 2009 coincided with the recession and showed declines. In 2009, we also saw a drop in the number of employees.”

    Between 2008 and 2009, all states showed declines in the number of establishments, led by Arizona, which lost 6,000 establishments (4.3 percent) and more than 200,000 employees (9.1 percent). Only Alaska (1.8 percent) and the District of Columbia (0.1 percent) gained employees from 2008.

    Among the top 50 counties in the United States by number of establishments, the county with the largest decline in average annual payroll per employee was New York with an 11.4 percent decrease. Payroll decreased from $102,000 per employee in 2008 to $90,000 per employee in 2009.

    Retail trade was the sector with the largest number of establishments (1.1 million). Next were professional, scientific and technical services (842,566 establishments); health care and social assistance (799,271); other services (except public administration) (722,701); construction (712,977); and accommodation and food services (635,239).

    All five of these sectors showed declines, led by construction with a 7.8 percent decline in the number of establishments and a 15.3 percent decline in the number of employees.

    Among industries, ambulatory health care services (NAICS 621) saw an increase in establishments, adding 5,657 from the previous year, while the specialty trade contractors industry (NAICS 238) lost 36,692 businesses.

First-Time Annual Statistics for Island Areas

    For the first time, County Business Patterns has expanded to include economic statistics for the four Island Areas (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

    American Samoa reported a total of 458 establishments with a total annual payroll of $120.2 million; Guam reported a total of 3,235 establishments with total annual payroll of $1.2 billion; the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands reported a total of 1,232 establishments with total annual payroll of $131.4 million; the U.S. Virgin Islands reported a total of 2,845 establishments with total annual payroll of $1.0 billion; Puerto Rico reported more than 45,500 establishments with more than 702,000 employees and an annual payroll of $16.2 billion (Puerto Rico statistics have previously been published).

    County Business Patterns excludes those who were self-employed, employees of private households, railroad employees, agriculture production workers and most government employees. Information on businesses without paid employees is released as part of the Nonemployer Statistics report. County Business Patterns data by five-digit ZIP codes also will be released this year.


County Business Patterns defines employment as all full- and part-time employees who were on the payroll during the pay period that includes March 12. Data are obtained from Census Bureau reports and administrative records from other federal agencies. Quality assurance procedures are applied to all phases of collection, processing and tabulation to minimize errors. The data are subject to error from miscoding and estimation for missing or misreported data. Values associated with each establishment are slightly modified to protect the confidentiality of the location. Further information about methodology and data limitations is available at <>.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | | Last Revised: September 09, 2014