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About this Program

Nonemployer Statistics (NES) is an annual series that provides subnational economic data for businesses that have no paid employees and are subject to federal income tax. The data consist of the number of businesses and total receipts by industry. Most nonemployers are self-employed individuals operating unincorporated businesses (known as sole proprietorships), which may or may not be the owner's principal source of income.

The majority of all business establishments in the United States are nonemployers, yet these firms average less than 4 percent of all sales and receipts nationally. Due to their small economic impact, these firms are excluded from most other Census Bureau business statistics (the primary exception being the Survey of Business Owners). The NES series is the primary resource available to study the scope and activities of nonemployers at a detailed geographic level. For complementary statistics on the firms that do have paid employees, refer to the County Business Patterns. Additional sources of data on small businesses include the Economic Census, and the Statistics of U.S. Businesses.


NES provides annual statistics on U.S. businesses with no paid employees or payroll at a detailed geography and industry level. This program is authorized by the United States Code, Titles 13 and 26.


Statistics are available on businesses that have no paid employment or payroll, are subject to federal income taxes, and have receipts of $1,000 or more ($1 or more for the Construction sector). The data are available for approximately 450 NAICS industries at the U.S. level and by State, County, Metropolitan/Micropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), and Combined Statistical Area (CSA) geography levels. Data are also presented by Legal Form of Organization (LFO) as filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The majority of NAICS industries are included with some exceptions as follows: crop and animal production; investment funds, trusts, and other financial vehicles; management of companies and enterprises; and public administration.


The number of establishments and receipts are published by geographic area, NAICS industry, legal form of organization (U.S. and state only, starting in 2008), and receipts-size class of establishments (U.S. level only, starting in 2009).


Data represent activity during the reference year. Data have been collected annually since 1997. Prior to 1997, Nonemployer Statistics were published as part of the 1992, 1987, 1977, and 1972 Economic Census.


NES data originate from statistical information obtained through business income tax records that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides to the Census Bureau. The data are processed through various automated and analytical review to eliminate employers from the tabulation, correct and complete data items, remove anomalies, and validate geography coding and industry classification.

Prior to publication, the noise infusion method is applied to protect individual businesses from disclosure.

Noise infusion was first applied to Nonemployer Statistics in 2005. Prior to 2005, data were suppressed using the complementary cell suppression method. For more information on the coverage and methods used in Nonemployer Statistics, refer to NES Methodology.


The annual NES data are available approximately 17 months after each reference year. Data are published via, comma-delimited format (csv) for spreadsheet or database use, application programming interface (API), and in data.census.gov from 2012 to the current reference year.


NES are provided for statistical use in federal economic programs. The data are a primary sampling source for the U.S. Small Business Administration surveys and are available to the public as an annual data release. The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the data to contribute to the total Gross Domestic Product for all U.S. businesses. State and local government offices use the data to assess business changes, develop fiscal policies, and plan future policies and programs. Researchers use the data to study trends in businesses over time, particularly for the gig economy. Prospective or current business owners use the data to research market potential.

Special Features

NES provides the only annual source of detailed and comprehensive data on the scope, nature, and activities of U.S. businesses with no paid employees or payroll at the county level.

Page Last Revised - September 12, 2022
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