The above chart shows the percentage of the population between 18 and 64 who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a business. While this number dropped through the worst of the recession, it has now recovered to its best levels in the century. (At 12.7% it is essentially where it was in 2012, when it hit 12.8%.) That's great news.
When financial markets convulsed and credit disappeared, it made sense that the number of new business ventures would drop. But of course as layoffs spiked, it also makes sense that more people would be forced into entrepreneurship. If you can't find a job, you have more incentive to make one.
Well, the GEM tracks the relative prevalence of this ""necessity driven entrepreneurship," as well. It captures the percentage of folks who have gone the entrepreneurial route because they had no other options for income.
As you can see, Spain - where unemployment is still above 20% - continues to rise in necessity-driven entrepreneurship. Such entrepreneurship is too often driven more by fear than hope. In the US, though, there has been a sharp drop in this type of entrepreneurship from 37% to 21% of total entrepreneurial activity. As the labor market has recovered, fewer Americans are forced into entrepreneurship.
Finally, Kauffman tracks entrepreneurs who are currently setting up businesses. These are ventures that still haven't paid salaries but promise to create jobs and wealth. This is a measure of early-stage startups. Here, the US stands out with rates that have doubled in the last few years and are double those in most of Europe.
This nascent entrepreneurship rate is a pretty shocking number, really. Not only has it jumped from 4.9% in 2010 to 9.2% of the workforce in 2013, it is more than double the rate in the UK (3.6%) or Norway (2.9%).
Most of these startups will fail. Still, you miss all of the new jobs that you don't try to create. This bodes well for the US and could be the simplest explanation of why Europe's GDP is close to dipping into yet another recession even as the US is flirting with GDP growth of 4% and about to extend its record for consecutive months of job creation. It seems to me as good a reason as any for optimism.