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More People Are Exploring Entrepreneurship Because of This Unexpected Reason More new business applications were filed in 2023 than in any other year so far.

By Sherin Shibu Edited by Melissa Malamut

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. Census Bureau data released this month shows that the total number of applications to start small businesses hit a record 5.5 million last year.
  • A Columbia Business School expert tells Entrepreneur why a record-breaking number of people decided to start a business last year.

More people are starting businesses now than ever before — and the reason could be that the opportunity cost, or what they have to give up in exchange for entrepreneurship, is lower than ever.

Data that the U.S. Census Bureau released earlier this month shows that the total number of applications to start businesses hit a record 5.5 million last year.

That's half a million more applications than what was filed in 2022.

Related: Here's What Millions of Small Businesses Have in Common, According to a New Survey

Census Bureau data from the first four months of this year show that the startup boom is still going strong, too — from January through April, the number of new business applications totaled over 1.7 million.

Why are more people filing to start new businesses?

Columbia Business School professor Angela Lee told Entrepreneur that the reason could be the "unprecedented number of layoffs from big tech companies in the last several years, resulting in a large pool of talent freed up to pursue entrepreneurship."

Columbia Business School professor Angela Lee (left) and Co-Founder of Plum Alley Investments Andrea Turner Moffitt (right). Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

Lee, the director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, also noted that "entrepreneurship has historically been counter-cyclical because the opportunity cost to start a company goes down during a recession."

Related: Want to Start a Billion-Dollar Business? Look to These Two Industries, Which Have the Most Unicorn Growth

Big tech companies have been laying off employees in record numbers in recent years.

Tech layoffs last year affected 263,180 employees globally according to tracker Layoffs.fyi.

Amazon laid off the most people (27,410) last year, but Meta (21,000), Google (12,115) and Microsoft (11,158) also contributed to record numbers.

The unemployment rate has remained stable, in the 3.7% to 3.9% range in the U.S. over the past nine months, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report.

Related: 'The Employment Situation' Report for April Shows Employers Are Taking Hiring Down a Notch, Employee Wage Growth Slowing

Fact: Half of all businesses fail within the first 5 years! Increase your chances of success to 92% with franchising. Take our quick 2-minute assessment to find the franchise that's right for you!

Sherin Shibu

Entrepreneur Staff

News Reporter

Sherin Shibu is a business news reporter at Entrepreneur.com. She previously worked for PCMag, Business Insider, The Messenger, and ZDNET as a reporter and copyeditor. Her areas of coverage encompass tech, business, strategy, finance, and even space. She is a Columbia University graduate.

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