Mandate for Maximum Employment: The Importance of Access to Capital for Small Businesses

Exploring the Role of Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship in the Labor Market

The Federal Reserve’s Uneven Outcomes in the Labor Market Conference has brought together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss the labor market’s impact on the economy and workers’ financial well-being. The Federal Reserve has a mandate to promote maximum employment and price stability, and finding the balance between these objectives is crucial for a healthy economy. This article focuses on the role of small businesses and entrepreneurship in the labor market, highlighting the importance of access to capital for job creation and economic growth.

The Significance of Small Businesses in the Labor Market

Small businesses play a vital role in the U.S. labor market, employing nearly half of America’s private sector workers and accounting for over 60 percent of net new jobs since 1995. While entrepreneurship offers individuals the opportunity to fulfill personal goals and have more control over their careers, it also contributes to job creation and economic stability. However, small businesses face challenges in hiring and retaining employees and accessing capital for business operations.

Challenges Faced by Small Businesses

Entrepreneurs and small business owners often face difficulties in finding qualified workers and accessing the capital they need to grow. The pandemic exacerbated these challenges, particularly for businesses owned by women and minorities. Many small businesses, especially those in sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, had to shut their doors. However, there has been a surge in business creation since the initial lockdown period, with many new businesses started by minority owners. This growth in start-ups has the potential to address employment gaps and create opportunities for workers facing barriers in the labor market.

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The Need for Access to Capital

To create jobs and thrive, small businesses require access to affordable credit and capital. While personal sources of capital have become more prevalent, external funding is crucial for small businesses to reach their growth potential. Community banks, in particular, play a significant role in providing access to capital for small businesses. These banks focus on relationship banking and have a better understanding of local small businesses’ creditworthiness. Small businesses also report greater satisfaction in their dealings with community bank lenders compared to larger institutions.

Federal Reserve Support for Small Businesses

The Federal Reserve supports small businesses through various initiatives and partnerships. The Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council (CDIAC) engages community banks, providing insight and information about lending conditions and economic trends. The Federal Reserve’s localized supervision of smaller banks allows for a better understanding of local markets and community needs. Community banks, including Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Women-Owned Depository Institutions (WDIs), and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), are vital sources of capital for underrepresented small businesses.

The Role of the Federal Reserve in Crisis Response

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve supported small businesses through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Community banks, including MDIs, WDIs, and CDFIs, played a crucial role in implementing the program and providing loans to keep workers employed. The Federal Reserve also supported CDFIs and MDIs through the Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP), which provided capital directly to these institutions for loans, grants, and forbearance to small and minority-owned businesses.


The Federal Reserve recognizes the importance of small businesses in creating opportunities and promoting a robust labor market. Access to capital is essential for small businesses to thrive and contribute to job creation and economic growth. The Fed’s support for community banks and initiatives like the PPP and ECIP demonstrates its commitment to ensuring that small businesses have the resources they need to succeed. As discussions continue on labor outcomes and employer financing, it is crucial to consider the role of small businesses and the importance of access to capital in achieving maximum employment.

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