This has been a pronounced trend paralleling the Great Resignation. Business formation through three quarters of 2021 is on trend to set an all-time high, with over 1.4 million applications to start new businesses filed through September. This is a complete transformation from the anemic business formation out of the Great Recession. “It’s pervasive across the country and across industries, which I think is telling,” said Kenan Fikri, director of research at the Economic Innovation Group, which tracks startups and entrepreneurship. But a disproportionate number of new business applications are in the retail, food, accommodation, and hospitality sectors hit so hard by the pandemic, and so freighted with low-wage workers.
Fikri attributes the startup boom to people having more wherewithal to take risks, thanks to the pop-up COVID safety net. But he also noted a desire for personal renewal. “With the push of job losses and the existential push of the pandemic, people were wanting to make big choices in their lives,” he said. “The country’s inherent dynamism was subdued in the 2010s, but it wasn’t out. It took a shock to rekindle it.”