15 Cities With the Most Self-Employed Workers

Happy businesswoman working from home
Flamingo Images / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on HireAHelper.

Nationally, self-employed workers total over 15.3 million, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic impacts on the economy as a whole, many small-business owners and other self-employed workers have been particularly hard hit.

Two different data sources—the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—pegged the national self-employment rate in the range of 9.6% to 10% for 2019. While recently updated data from the BLS reported a jump from 10% to 10.5% in 2020, the total number of self-employed workers actually decreased from 2019 to 2020.

The increase in the self-employment rate can be explained by both an increase in the number of self-employed workers operating their own incorporated businesses and a decrease in the total number of people employed. The U.S. saw a large increase in new business applications in 2020, indicating that some workers likely turned to self-employment after losing their jobs due to the pandemic.

Self-employed workers and the performance of their businesses are crucial to the national economy. Research from the Pew Research Center estimates that while self-employed workers account for just 10% of the workforce, they provide jobs for another 20% or about 30 million additional workers.

To find the cities with the most self-employed workers, researchers at HireAHelper used data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here are the large U.S. metropolitan areas (populations of 1 million or more) with the most self-employed workers, followed by details on our methodology.

15. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

Riverside, California at night
MattGush / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.0%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 202,298
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 30.4%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Retail trade
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $45,457
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $46,260

14. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

Orlando skyline
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.1%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 132,951
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 45.9%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Transportation and warehousing, and utilities
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $40,406
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $40,823

13. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN

Nashville, Tennessee
jdross75 / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.2%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 104,743
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 28.2%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Information
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $50,507
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $48,749

12. Tucson, AZ

Tucson, AZ
Sean-Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.3%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 47,819
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 27.2%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Manufacturing
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $45,457
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $41,969

11. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

Portland, Oregon
photomatz / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.3%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 132,938
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 38.2%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Educational services, and health care and social assistance
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $60,609
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $56,999

10. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, CA

Home in Sacramento, California
Victoria Ditkovsky / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.4%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 117,395
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 29.5%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Transportation and warehousing, and utilities
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $52,022
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $55,665

9. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

Denver skyline
Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.5%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 173,501
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 45.0%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Information
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $60,609
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $58,633

8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Tampa, Florida
picturin / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.6%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 159,600
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 46.7%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $45,457
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $45,007

7. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

San Francisco neighborhood.
Bertl123 / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 10.6%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 269,821
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 29.5%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $70,710
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $76,764

6. Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Austin Urton / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 11.0%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 74,237
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 35.6%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $50,507
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $45,551

5. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX

Austin, Texas
Roschetzky Photography / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 11.3%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 138,530
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 35.8%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Information
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $51,012
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $52,453

4. New Orleans-Metairie, LA

New Orleans
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 11.6%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 70,503
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 35.4%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Information
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $50,507
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $45,401

3. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA

The skyline of San Diego, where median rent is well below median mortgage payments
Dancestrokes / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 12.1%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 196,477
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 29.6%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Information
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $50,507
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $54,584

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

Los Angeles
ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 13.2%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 876,710
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 31.4%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Information
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $50,507
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $50,394

RELATED: Moving in or out of LA? Find the best move help in Los Angeles in seconds based on cost, convenience, and thousands of reviews.

1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

Miami, Florida
littleny / Shutterstock.com
  • Share of workers that are self-employed: 13.8%
  • Total number of self-employed workers: 426,661
  • Share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses: 47.6%
  • Most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers: Wholesale trade
  • Median income for self-employed workers (full-time): $40,406
  • Median income for all workers (full-time): $40,790

Methodology

Data entry on a laptop
baranq / Shutterstock.com

To find the cities with the most self-employed workers, researchers at HireAHelper used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) and 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS PUMS). The researchers ranked metro areas according to the share of self-employed workers, including those in both incorporated and unincorporated businesses. In the event of a tie, the metro with the larger number of total self-employed workers was ranked higher.

Researchers also calculated the share of self-employed workers in incorporated businesses, the most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers, and the median income for both full-time self-employed workers and all full-time workers. The most over-indexed industry for self-employed workers was determined as the industry within a metro that has the greatest difference in the share of self-employed workers when compared to that industry at the national level. Median income for self-employed workers was calculated using the ACS PUMS; all other statistics were sourced from the ACS.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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