Business Initiative Home

How Many Employees does a Small Business have?

By: Jack Nicholaisen author image
Business Initiative

The number of employees at small businesses can vary greatly depending on the industry in which they operate.

In this article, we will explore the average number of employees at small businesses across different industries.

article summaryKey Takeaways

  • Small Business Definition: A small business generally has fewer than 500 employees, with exact numbers varying by industry and sector.
  • Retail Industry: Retail small businesses average around 10-15 employees but require adjustments for seasonal staffing needs.
  • Manufacturing Sector: Manufacturing businesses typically employ 20-25 people, but automation is changing workforce requirements.
  • Construction Trends: Construction companies average 5-10 employees but often adjust staffing based on project size and specialization.
  • Professional Services: Small businesses in professional services average 5-10 employees, with remote work and specialization reshaping workforce needs.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), a small business has fewer than 500 employees.

This definition applies to a wide range of industries, including retail, manufacturing, construction, and professional services.

Let’s have a look at how the number of employees compares in small businesses arcoss various industries…

➤ Take Initiative: Increase your company's employee retention rates

Average Number of Employees in Small Businesses


small business number of employees

Retail is one of the most common industries for small businesses.

In this industry, the average number of employees is around 10-15.

This amount varies based on the size of the store and the type of retail business.

For example, a small boutique may only have a few employees, while a larger department store may have dozens.

  • E-commerce Growth: Increasing competition from online stores challenges small brick-and-mortar retailers to optimize in-store experiences and customer service.

  • Seasonal Staffing: Retailers often require additional staff during peak shopping seasons, leading to fluctuations in employee numbers throughout the year.


how many employees are in a small business

The average number of employees in a manufacturing business is around 20-25.

This number can vary depending on the complexity of the manufacturing process and the size of the company.

For example, a small manufacturer of artisanal products may only have a handful of employees, while a larger manufacturer of complex machinery may have hundreds.

  • Automation: Automated machinery reduces the need for certain roles but requires highly skilled operators and technicians.

  • Global Supply Chain Issues: Disruptions in global supply chains can force small manufacturers to adjust production processes and staffing.


how many employees is a small business

Small companies in the construction industry have 5-10 employees on average, but can vary depending on the size of the construction company and the projects they specialize in.

For example, a small contractor that specializes in home renovations may only have a few employees, while a larger construction company that builds commercial buildings may have dozens.

  • Skilled Labor Shortage: The construction industry is facing a shortage of skilled labor, forcing companies to train and retain employees more strategically.

  • Project-Based Staffing: Construction projects often require specialized teams that change based on project complexity and size.


small business how many employees

Many small businesses provide professional services.

This industry includes a wide range of businesses, such as law firms, accounting firms, and consulting firms.

The average number of employees in professional fields is around 5-10.

This number varies according to the size of the firm and the type of services they offer.

For example, a small law firm specializing in family law may only have a handful of employees, while a larger law firm that handles corporate law may have dozens.

  • Remote Work: The adoption of remote work has changed employee expectations and increased the geographic scope for recruitment.

  • Specialization: Firms are specializing in niche areas to differentiate themselves in competitive markets.

➤ Want personalized assistance? Book a FREE Consultation Today!

The Role of Technology on the Number of Employees in a Business

Technology plays a significant role in shaping employee numbers and business processes across industries:

  • Retail: Point-of-sale systems and customer management software allow small retailers to efficiently handle higher customer volumes with fewer staff.

  • Manufacturing: Robotics and automation are reducing the number of employees needed for repetitive tasks while increasing demand for skilled technicians.

  • Construction: Project management software and Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools are improving project planning and reducing rework, requiring fewer personnel for administrative tasks.

  • Professional Services: Cloud-based collaboration tools enable firms to offer services with distributed teams, reducing the need for large in-office staff.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions About Small Business Employees

how many employees does a business have

What defines a small business in terms of employee count?

A small business typically has fewer than 500 employees, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

However, this number can vary depending on the industry.

Learn More...

The SBA defines a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees, but this classification varies across sectors.

In professional services, businesses may have fewer than 10 employees, while manufacturing companies can have up to 25.

This classification is essential for obtaining government assistance, loans, and grants designed for small businesses.

Read more here.

How does the employee count impact a small business's competitiveness?

Employee count affects productivity, costs, and overall efficiency, impacting a business's ability to compete.

Learn More...

A well-optimized workforce enables businesses to streamline operations, manage costs, and remain competitive.

For instance, in retail, smaller staff can increase customer engagement by offering personalized services.

Conversely, manufacturing often requires more employees to handle complex machinery, but automation can reduce the need for repetitive manual tasks.

Maintaining the right staffing balance improves productivity and adaptability, giving small businesses a competitive edge.

What challenges do small businesses face in hiring and retaining employees?

Small businesses often struggle with high turnover and fierce competition from larger companies.

Learn More...

High turnover rates in retail and construction can lead to increased training costs and reduced productivity.

Small businesses also face competition from larger corporations offering better benefits and job security.

For example, a small consulting firm may find it challenging to compete with bigger firms' comprehensive healthcare plans.

Improving corporate culture, offering competitive salaries, and providing career advancement opportunities can help reduce turnover.

Read more here.

Are employee numbers in small businesses impacted by industry trends?

Yes, trends like automation and remote work affect employee numbers in different industries.

Learn More...

Industry trends like automation are reducing the need for repetitive tasks, particularly in manufacturing.

Remote work is reshaping the professional services sector, allowing businesses to hire staff from a broader geographical pool.

In construction, the shortage of skilled labor means companies are investing more in training to retain their workforce.

Understanding these trends helps businesses strategically manage their workforce and stay ahead of market changes.

How can small businesses optimize their workforce effectively?

Small businesses should invest in training, automate where possible, and offer flexible work options.

Learn More...

Investing in training allows employees to diversify their skills, reducing the need for specialized hires.

Automation in manufacturing and administrative tasks can minimize repetitive work, freeing up staff for more strategic roles.

Offering flexible work schedules or remote work can increase productivity and employee satisfaction.

Evaluating workforce needs based on business goals and industry trends will help small businesses stay competitive.

In Summary…

The number of employees at small businesses varies greatly depending on the industry, business size, and market trends.

It’s important to note that these are just averages, and the number of employees at small businesses can vary greatly depending on the specific business and industry.

While the averages provide useful benchmarks, owners should focus on their specific needs and optimize staffing according to their goals.

For example, a small tech startup may only have a few employees, while a small restaurant may have dozens working in different shifts.

With a clear understanding of trends and challenges, businesses can better strategize their workforce requirements and find innovative ways to improve productivity and employee satisfaction.


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.