Fewer Ohioans are going into business for themselves, and the state's level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to data reviewed by the Dayton Daily News.
The number of self-employed Ohioans is at the lowest level since 2001.
Self-employment has declined partly because the industries where workers are more likely to be self-employed, such as construction and real estate, were devastated by the recession and have been slow to come back.
But the state's economy and job growth is also concentrated in fields that are not ideal for self-employment, some economists said.
"It's not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it's just the nature of the Ohio economy is people on average are less likely to be self-employed than in some other states," said Scott Shane, economics professor with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
About 312,292 Ohioans are self-employed, meaning their primary job and chief source of income is working on their own, according to 2013 data from Economic Modeling Specialists International, an economics and data company based in Idaho.
Self-employed workers have unincorporated businesses, practices or farms.
Of the more than 5.5 million people employed in Ohio, only about 5.6 percent of the workers are self-employed, which is lower than all but eight other states, the data show.
Delaware has the lowest share of self-employed workers (4.1 percent) while Vermont has the highest share (10.4 percent).
Some unemployed and underemployed workers decide to go into business for themselves because of a lack of other opportunities. Other workers are entrepreneurs who want to bring a business concept to life. Some people like the idea of being their own bosses.
Self-employment provides workers with freedom and flexibility, and many self-employed workers grow their ventures into large and successful companies.
"You've got to be pretty involved, and there's a lot to it with all the taxes, business demands and things you've got to remember," said Erik Hunter, 40, who owns Urban Village Renovations in Kettering, a contracting business that specializes in renovating and repairing historic homes. "But the advantages are I can set my own schedule, and if I need a sick day I can take a sick day, because there is no one I must answer to."
Hunter has owned the business since 2007, but made it a limited liability company last year.
But self-employed workers typically experience more financial stress and insecurity than workers in incorporated firms, experts said. Self-employed workers on average earn less than their counterparts, and many self-run businesses fail within the first few years of opening."
Self-employment grew rapidly in Ohio and the United States between 2001 and 2006, which coincided with the housing boom.
The strong housing market fueled growth in the construction and real estate industries, which have many self-employed workers. In Ohio, about one-quarter of construction workers are self-employed, and so are about 17 percent of workers in real estate, rental and leasing, the data show.
But then the housing market went bust and the economy tanked. The number of self-employed workers in Ohio began to fall, and it has trended downward ever since. Self-employment has mostly declined nationwide.
The economic crisis and weak housing market hurt entrepreneurs, because they could not obtain financing from lenders and people were unable to get equity out of their homes, said Barbara Hayde, president of The Entrepreneurs Center in Dayton.
"It used to be very easy to self-fund, because you could put a second mortgage on your house," she said. "People just can't get that kind of money anymore."
But Hayde pointed out that the data indicate Ohio's share of self-employed workers is very close to other similar states, including Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Michigan.