Business Initiative Home

Trends in Business Applications | UPDATED for 2024

By: Jack Nicholaisen author image
article image

In today’s dynamic economic landscape, understanding the pulse of entrepreneurial activity is more crucial than ever.

One of the most telling indicators of this vibrant activity is the number of business applications filed each year.

These applications not only reflect the entrepreneurial spirit of a region but also serve as a barometer for economic health.

An uptick in applications often signals a bullish outlook, with individuals and groups eager to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Conversely, a downturn might indicate economic headwinds or a lack of confidence in the market.

article summaryKey Takeaways

  • Business applications surged in 2020, indicating a COVID-19-driven boom in entrepreneurship and startup formation.
  • Nonstore retail and personal services sectors experienced the largest growth, highlighting the shift towards e-commerce and self-employment opportunities.
  • Monitoring business application trends is essential for understanding economic conditions and making informed decisions.
  • The rise in nonemployer business applications suggests an increasing trend towards gig work and independent contracting.
  • The long-term effects of the pandemic may include a continued increase in online businesses, remote work, and restructuring in the retail and food services sectors.

Our analysis draws on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, specifically their Business Formation Statistics report.

This comprehensive dataset covers the period from 2004 to 2024, providing a rich, two-decade-long window into the ebb and flow of business applications across the United States.

By examining this data, we can uncover trends, identify patterns, and gain insights into the ever-evolving landscape of American entrepreneurship.

Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the numbers, exploring what they reveal about the state of business and the economy over the past 20 years.

The Data - Yearly Average Business Applications


The Rise and Fall of Business Applications


Over the years, the landscape of business applications has been anything but static.

It’s a roller coaster ride, with peaks and troughs that tell a story of economic resilience, adaptation, and, at times, vulnerability.

Let’s dive into the general trends we’ve observed, the highs, the lows, and the factors that might be pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Starting from the early 2000s, we witnessed a steady climb in the number of business applications. It was the era of dot-com bubbles and burgeoning tech startups.

Fast forward to 2008-2009, the Global Financial Crisis threw a wrench in the works, causing a noticeable dip in applications.

It was a period of uncertainty, and understandably, many hesitated to venture into new business endeavors.

As the economy began to recover, so did the spirit of entrepreneurship.

The following years saw a gradual increase in applications, with a notable surge around 2010-2011.

This uptick could be attributed to technological advancements and the rise of digital platforms, making it easier than ever to start a business.

However, the journey wasn’t without its bumps.

The mid-2010s experienced a plateau, possibly due to market saturation in certain sectors or regulatory changes.

But just when things seemed to stabilize, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, leading to an unprecedented spike in business applications.

This surge was fueled by a combination of factors - economic stimulus measures, a shift towards online business models, and individuals seeking new income streams during lockdowns.

As we analyze these trends, it’s clear that economic conditions play a pivotal role.

Recessions and recoveries directly impact entrepreneurial confidence.

Policy changes, too, can either foster or hinder business creation.

For instance, ease of registration, tax incentives, and support programs can encourage applications, while stringent regulations might do the opposite.

Technological advancements deserve a special mention.

The digital revolution has lowered barriers to entry, enabling a wider range of people to bring their business ideas to life.

From e-commerce platforms to social media marketing, technology has opened new avenues for entrepreneurship.

In conclusion, the rise and fall of business applications are a reflection of a dynamic interplay between economic conditions, policy frameworks, and technological progress.

Each year tells a story, and understanding these trends can provide valuable insights for policymakers, investors, and aspiring entrepreneurs alike.

Yearly Highlights

timeline of events

The journey of business applications over the years tells a story of resilience, innovation, and economic shifts.

Let’s take a closer look at each year:

  • 2004:

The average number of business applications stood at 189,760.

This was a time of steady economic growth following the early 2000s recession, laying the groundwork for entrepreneurial activity.

  • 2005-2007:

We see a gradual increase in applications, with averages of 209,126 in 2005 and 221,288 in 2007.

This period was marked by economic stability and optimism, encouraging more individuals to start their own businesses.

  • 2008:

The number dipped slightly to 210,291, reflecting the onset of the global financial crisis.

Uncertainty and tightened credit conditions likely led to a cautious approach towards new business ventures.

  • 2009-2010:

The aftermath of the recession is evident, with averages hovering around 202,534 and 208,311, respectively.

Despite the challenging environment, entrepreneurs continued to pursue new opportunities, albeit at a slower pace.

  • 2011-2013:

A gradual recovery is observed, with the average climbing to 217,629 by 2013.

This period saw a resurgence in confidence and an uptick in economic activity, translating into increased business applications.

  • 2014-2016:

The momentum continued, with averages reaching 248,009 in 2016.

These years were characterized by technological advancements and the rise of digital entrepreneurship, which lowered barriers to entry for many aspiring business owners.

  • 2017-2019:

A significant jump is noted, with the average soaring to 293,181 by 2019.

This period was marked by strong economic growth, low unemployment rates, and a booming tech sector, all contributing to a fertile environment for new businesses.

  • 2020:

The pandemic year witnessed a record-breaking average of 364,922 business applications.

The COVID-19 crisis, while disruptive, also sparked a wave of innovation and a shift towards online business models.

  • 2021:

The entrepreneurial spirit continued to thrive, with an average of 450,669 applications.

This surge can be attributed to the continued digital transformation and the emergence of new market needs in the post-pandemic world.

  • 2022-2024:

The data shows a slight decrease in applications, with averages of 423,664 in 2022 and 442,490 so far for 2024.

This period reflects a stabilization phase, as the market adjusts to the new normal and the initial rush of pandemic-induced entrepreneurship begins to level off.

Throughout these years, the landscape of business applications has been shaped by a myriad of factors, from economic conditions and technological advancements to societal shifts and global events.

Each year’s data provides a snapshot of the entrepreneurial climate, offering insights into the ever-evolving world of business.

The Impact of Major Events

impact of events

In the latter part of our dataset, we observe some intriguing fluctuations that warrant a closer examination.

Particularly noteworthy are the years 2020 and 2021, where the data reveals significant spikes in the number of business applications.

The year 2020 marked the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented global event that drastically altered the landscape of economies worldwide.

The pandemic’s impact on the number of business applications was multifaceted. On one hand, it led to widespread economic uncertainty and disruptions in supply chains, causing some potential entrepreneurs to hesitate.

On the other hand, it also spurred a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Many individuals, faced with job losses or a desire for more flexible work arrangements, turned to starting their own businesses as a solution.

This surge in entrepreneurial activity is reflected in the data, with the average number of business applications in 2020 reaching 364,922, a significant increase from the previous year’s average of 293,181.

The trend continued into 2021, with the average number of business applications climbing even higher to 450,669. This continued increase can be attributed to several factors.

Firstly, the gradual easing of lockdowns provided a glimmer of hope and stability, encouraging more people to pursue their business ventures.

Additionally, the shift towards digitalization and e-commerce, accelerated by the pandemic, opened up new opportunities for online businesses.

Government stimulus packages and support for small businesses also played a role in boosting entrepreneurial activity during this time.

It’s important to note that while the pandemic was a significant driver of these trends, other factors such as technological advancements and changing consumer preferences also contributed to the increase in business applications.

As we move forward, it will be interesting to observe how these trends evolve.

The pandemic has undoubtedly left a lasting impact on the business landscape, and it will be crucial for entrepreneurs and policymakers alike to adapt to the changing dynamics.

Implications for the Future

impact on the future

As we gaze into the crystal ball of business applications, the trends observed offer intriguing insights into what the future might hold.

The trajectory of business applications, especially in recent years, paints a picture of a dynamic entrepreneurial landscape, pulsating with activity and innovation.

For entrepreneurs, the surge in business applications signals a highly competitive environment.

The increasing number of applications suggests a growing appetite for entrepreneurship, but it also means that standing out in a crowded market is more crucial than ever.

Aspiring business owners must not only bring unique and valuable offerings to the table but also stay agile, adapting to the ever-changing market trends and consumer preferences.

Investors, on the other hand, might find themselves in a sweet spot.

The rise in business applications indicates a plethora of investment opportunities. However, with great opportunities come greater responsibilities.

Investors need to sharpen their due diligence skills, carefully evaluating the potential and sustainability of these burgeoning enterprises.

The data on business applications can serve as a valuable tool in their arsenal, helping them identify emerging trends and sectors ripe for investment.

Policymakers are not left out of this equation.

The trends in business applications provide them with critical insights into the health of the economy and the entrepreneurial spirit.

Policies that foster a supportive environment for new businesses, such as easing regulatory hurdles, providing financial incentives, and investing in infrastructure and education, can further fuel the growth in business applications.

Policymakers also need to keep a keen eye on sectors that are witnessing a significant uptick in applications, as these could be the growth engines of tomorrow’s economy.

In a nutshell, the future of business applications looks promising, albeit challenging.

Entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers alike need to navigate this landscape with a blend of optimism, caution, and strategic thinking.

As the world continues to evolve, so too will the dynamics of business applications, shaping the contours of our economic and entrepreneurial landscape.

Here’s the HTML code with the questions and answers formatted according to your specifications:

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions About Business Applications

business application questions

What are business applications?

Business applications are requests filed by individuals or entities to start a new business or expand an existing one.

Business applications are formal documents submitted to government agencies or regulatory bodies to register a new business or make changes to an existing one.

They are used to obtain necessary licenses, permits, and approvals to operate legally.

The number of business applications is often used as an indicator of entrepreneurial activity and economic health.

For example, the U.S. Census Bureau's Business Formation Statistics track the number of new business applications filed each month.

Why is it important to monitor business application trends?

Monitoring business application trends helps us understand the economic landscape and make informed decisions.

By analyzing trends in business applications, we can gauge the level of entrepreneurial activity, identify emerging sectors, and anticipate economic shifts.

For instance, a surge in business applications may indicate a growing economy and job creation, while a decline could signal economic downturns.

Policymakers, investors, and business leaders use this data to shape strategies, allocate resources, and support economic development.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect business applications?

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant surge in business applications, especially in the second half of 2020.

Contrary to expectations, the pandemic resulted in a record number of business applications in 2020, as reported by economist John C. Haltiwanger in his working paper, "Entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic: evidence from the business formation statistics."

This surge was driven by factors such as the shift to e-commerce, the gig economy, and individuals seeking new income sources.

The nonstore retail sector, in particular, saw a notable increase in applications, reflecting the growing trend of online businesses.

Read more about the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses.

What are nonemployer businesses, and why are they significant?

Nonemployer businesses are businesses that have no paid employees and are operated by their owners.

Nonemployer businesses, often sole proprietorships or independent contractors, are a significant part of the economy, especially in the gig economy.

They represent flexibility and low overhead costs, and their numbers have been increasing over the past 15 years.

The rise in nonemployer business applications during 2020 suggests that more individuals are turning to self-employment and gig work as alternative income sources, particularly in sectors like e-commerce and personal services.

How do new business applications impact job creation?

New business applications can lead to job creation, especially if they are for employer businesses.

When new businesses are formed, they often hire employees, contributing to job creation.

Historically, new employer businesses have emerged within 4 to 8 quarters of the application date, according to Haltiwanger's analysis.

However, the extent of job creation depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, economic conditions, and the success and growth of the new ventures.

What sectors experienced the largest increases in business applications during the pandemic?

The nonstore retail and personal services sectors saw the largest increases in business applications during the pandemic.

The nonstore retail sector, which includes online businesses, experienced a significant surge in applications, accounting for one-third of all new businesses formed during the pandemic.

This reflects the shift towards e-commerce as consumers increasingly shop online.

The personal services sector also saw a rise in applications, possibly due to individuals seeking self-employment opportunities in areas like consulting, coaching, and personal care services.

What long-term effects might the pandemic have on small businesses and entrepreneurship?

The pandemic may lead to substantial restructuring in sectors like retail and food services and could accelerate trends like e-commerce and remote work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant changes in consumer behavior and business operations.

While some businesses, especially in retail and accommodation, have faced challenges, others have adapted by moving online or pivoting their business models.

As the economy recovers, we may see lasting changes, such as increased online shopping, more remote work, and a rise in gig and freelance work.

These shifts could reshape the small business landscape and entrepreneurship in the coming years.

In Summary…

The analysis of yearly average business applications reveals a dynamic landscape, characterized by fluctuations that mirror the broader economic environment.

Notably, the data highlights periods of growth and contraction, with a significant surge observed in recent years, possibly influenced by the pandemic’s impact on the entrepreneurial spirit and the shift towards digitalization.

The surge in applications, particularly in the nonstore retail and personal services sectors, underscores a significant shift towards e-commerce and self-employment.

Understanding these trends is crucial for aspiring entrepreneurs to better position themselves, capitalize on emerging markets, and adapt to the evolving economic environment.

Investors can gauge the health of the startup ecosystem, while policymakers can tailor their support to foster a conducive environment for business creation.

Practically speaking, this information can guide decision-making in several ways.

For those considering starting a business, the data suggests that online ventures and services that cater to remote or freelance work may have a higher chance of success.

Existing businesses can use this insight to pivot their operations or explore new avenues for growth, such as expanding their online presence or offering new services that align with current trends.

By leveraging the insights from this article, you stand to gain a competitive edge in the market.

You’ll be better equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions, whether it’s launching a new business, expanding your current operations, or adapting your strategy to meet the demands of a changing economy.

Ready to turn these insights into action?

Schedule a consultation call with Business Initiative to discuss how you can capitalize on these trends and grow your business.

Alternatively, use our contact form to get in touch and start your entrepreneurial journey today.

Stay updated on the latest trends and opportunities by subscribing to our Business Initiative Newsletter and following us on X (Twitter).


Ask an Expert

Not finding what you're looking for? Send us a message with your questions, and we will get back to you within one business day.

About the Author

jack nicholaisen
Jack Nicholaisen

Jack Nicholaisen is the founder of After acheiving the rank of Eagle Scout and studying Civil Engineering at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), he has spent the last 4 years disecting the mess of informaiton online about LLCs in order to help aspiring entrepreneurs and established business owners better understand everything there is to know about starting, running, and growing Limited Liability Companies and other business entities.