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Steven Power Headshot

The American Job Market and the Moonlighting Internet Entrepreneur

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Despite what might be considered an improvement in employment rates overall, many Americans still have to burn the midnight oil to make the kind of money they did before the economy went bust. What's surprising is how many people are actually doing that -- working long after most are asleep, either to supplement their incomes or to start a new business in the Internet economy.

In a recent study by the U.S. Labor Department, fewer Americans were found to be quitting their jobs; more were staying in the same job longer. The Labor study estimated that 53 percent of Americans have held the same job for at least five years.

Meanwhile, the National Conference of State Legislatures has found that the national average unemployment rate is still hovering around 7.6 percent, despite an improvement over the same period a year ago.

In light of these employment statistics, the Internet retail market has revived a classic model for entrepreneurialism: Moonlighting. New Internet business owners are creating a second source of income by selling merchandise online while also working a full or part-time job.

In a three-month study conducted by Bigcommerce, we found that "indie" online retailers log an unusually high amount of business time outside regular office hours.

Our sample was nearly 20,000 of our e-commerce clients. From that group, 30-35 percent of all business activity was shown to take place between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Central Time; a considerable amount of that activity actually happened after midnight.

Just as interestingly, a large percentage was working straight through the day and into the wee hours. The peak time of activity for most of the people in the study is noon, when almost 80 percent of online retailers work on their businesses. At midnight, twelve full hours later, more than 49 percent still had their nose to the grindstone. Almost half of online retailers were working at 3 p.m., but 25 percent were still at it by 3 a.m. (probably when you and I have already called it a night).

Let's break these numbers down by region across the U.S.:
●One-third of the total number studied is based in Southern states. That's the largest group of moonlighters, with Florida, Georgia and Texas leading the pack.
●The West Coast produced 27 percent of late-night workers, centering on Arizona, Colorado and California.
●Only slightly less active, the Northeast region yielded 24 percent of moonlighting workers, with New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. most active in the region
●Fifteen percent of moonlighting entrepreneurs came from the Midwestern region, led by Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

What is driving the moonlighting trend in the Internet economy? Business owners in general are clocking more hours through the day than they may have in the past. And while job growth has improved over the past year, the jobs that are out there may not cover all of a family's monthly expenses. Consequently, many also work late pursuing second incomes because they have to hold on to whatever jobs they have.

E-commerce gives these people a way to keep their heads above water, even giving individual sellers an ongoing additional source of income.

These days, the only things you need to get an online store up and running is a few minutes of time, a credit card and an Internet connection. As long as you can put in the hard work to make it happen, you have a real chance at the American dream.