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Self-Employment Keeps the Unemployment Rolls Low

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The unemployment rate is now at its lowest level - 9.4 percent - in 19 months, despite millions of Americans who would like to go back to work. While this signals a move in the right direction, Americans have become accustomed to a monthly dose of bad news from the Department of Labor. These figures, though gloomy, would be much worse if a significant number of workers were not keeping themselves off of unemployment by finding freelance work and going into business for themselves.

While the economy continues to struggle and so many Americans remain unemployed, a growing number of individuals are putting themselves to work and keeping themselves from becoming an unemployment statistic by joining the ranks of over 23 million self-employed business owners.

These budding entrepreneurs and established self-employed business owners received a critical boost from Uncle Sam in 2010 in the form of tax relief contained within the small business jobs bill and the tax bill. Some of the changes are new deductions, such as the temporary self-employed health insurance deduction. Other relief comes from the extension of certain tax code provisions that were otherwise scheduled to expire. In both cases, the relief means flexibility to expand their businesses and increased cash flow during a time when every dollar counts. Even President Obama's top economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, recently commented that investing in America's small businesses is part of the Administration's plan to rebuild our economy. The self-employed are critical to ensuring this success.

As more and more unemployed workers consider self-employment, either as a short-term solution or long-term career move, policymakers need to continue to provide incentives to keep them out of the unemployment line. It is vital to our nation's health to do just that - it keeps them productively employed and contributing to the economy to the tune of nearly $1 billion dollars annually. Seventy-seven percent of small businesses are entrepreneurial enterprises owned and operated by an individual who is, by definition, self-employed. Their businesses, which may have a storefront or be run out of a home office, allow them to successfully provide for their families and contribute to their local communities.

As the drivers of economic growth, our nation could use - and certainly benefit from - more small business owners who put themselves to work. Our nation's 23 million self-employed small businesses are not only doing their part by staying off the unemployment rolls - but also by helping to jumpstart the economy.