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These are the top trending small businesses in 2021 (Exclusive Report)

Last year was rough for all of us. Need we say why?

The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged families, homes, offices, and communities. Too often, small businesses bore the financial brunt. However, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is here: Between federal economic relief, the vaccination rate trending upwards, and big supply-demand shakeups, the small-business sector is poised for a major comeback.

We at Huckleberry wanted to know which industries out there have already weathered the storm—and are seeing the biggest resurgence from 2020 to 2021. So we looked into the fastest-growing industries in the small business arena, based on year-over-year average payroll growth. (Translation: Of all of Huckleberry’s small business customers, which types saw the highest average increase in wages and salaries?)

Top small businesses in 2021 (so far)

Earlier this year, Huckleberry surveyed small business owners across the country. We found that small businesses had to find creative ways to survive a devastating year and that some industries remained resilient (namely, home maintenance and improvement services).

Armed with thousands of data points and some post-vaccine optimism, we wanted to ask ourselves: Which business types are already showing a resurgence halfway into 2021? Our team zoomed in on all industries we’ve helped insure in recent years and boiled it all down to average payroll numbers. Why? Well, for one thing, average payroll (overall wages and salaries) is a significant indicator of a business’s financial health and stability. On the industry level, year-over-year average payroll growth signals that a sector is growing. And some of these fastest-growing sectors are fast demanding affordable small business insurance through Huckleberry.

So, what are our main findings this time around?

  • You’ll see the raw numbers below, but it’s beginning to look like a promising year for car repair. With the hottest months of the year fast approaching and interstate travel projected to be on the rise, more vehicular traffic—and accidents–are sure to follow. Accordingly, Huckleberry found a promising, positive year-over-year growth rate in average payroll for our car-repair clients.
  • Home improvement services are seeing a resurgence this year. In fact, our last study showed that plumbing and HVAC businesses, flooring contractors, carpenters, and landscaping services all saw an increase in active insurance policies in 2020. That upward trajectory continues. But most impressively, all of these small business types are seeing an increase in average payroll numbers in 2021. That means more jobs, higher wages, or both.
  • Restaurants and retail stores are hallmarks of the Main Street experience, whether they’re in a bustling metropolis or the only joints in town. Seeing any more “We’re Back Open!” signs in your area? According to our analysis, that upward trend dates back many months.

10. General automotive repair

+2.7% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

It’s only logical to assume that the demand for auto repair services will increase as the country reopens. But we’ve seen the writing on the wall for months now. Despite a year that saw commuting rates plummet, auto repair shops that got insured with Huckleberry are revving their engines once again and boasting the tenth-highest average payroll growth rate among all industries we analyzed.

9. Finish carpentry contractors

+3.5% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

8. Restaurants

+10.8% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

Expect to see this on the list? So did we. In our study earlier in the year, restaurant owners who secured a policy through Huckleberry noted that curbside pickup was a major life preserver during COVID-19. Could the increase in payroll and insurance demand be the start of a restaurant renaissance?

7. Landscaping services

+10.8% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

6. Flooring contractors

+14.5% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

5. Barbershops

+15.0% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

The barbershop business model didn’t lend itself too well to lockdowns, social distancing, and the litany of challenges that the coronavirus pandemic presented. But 2021 has seen these small businesses come roaring back. And with reopening comes the reintroduction of risk: In addition to the average growth in payroll, we observed an increase in insurance policy demand as barbershops started to ramp up their operations in the first months of 2021.

4. Tile contractors

+21.0% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

3. Plumbing and HVAC contractors

+23.0% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

2. Retail stores

+25.0% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

Main Street is coming back, and with it, the experience of in-person shopping. And we have real reason to believe that retail stores across the country are bouncing back: Retailers boast the second-highest average payroll growth from 2020 to 2021.

1. Electrical contractors

+40.0% average payroll growth, 2020-2021

This is by far the biggest resurgence we’ve seen—pun intended. Electrical work is tough stuff, and often thankless, but it’s what’s powered all homes, businesses, and homes-away-from-homes during this pandemic year. Electrical contracting businesses have seen explosive growth, with a 40% increase in average payroll numbers and a 159.7% increase in insurance policy demand. Once again, it shows that our analysis is very much in line with macro-level small business trends across the nation. Are there any electricians in the house? Looks like hiring season is in full swing!

Now, let’s take a look at where we see the most significant resurgence in payroll growth.

According to Huckleberry’s data, four states particularly stood out as the standard-bearers for small business growth in 2021.

Nevada: +29.8% payroll growth

Is the return of Sin City already here? Nevada ranks top on our list of trending states for small businesses, with 165.1% insurance policy growth, to boot.

Maryland: +14.9% payroll growth

Clocking in at #2 is the Old Line State, whose businesses have also ushered in a massive increase in small business insurance demand over the past year.

North Carolina: +7.8% payroll growth

Don’t count out this Southern state, which is fast becoming an innovation hub amidst its population boom. NC is one of Huckleberry’s fastest-growing states for small business insurance.

Tennessee: +5.7% payroll growth

Payroll numbers are looking good for Tennessee in 2021. Couple that with a sizable increase in insurance policy demand across the state, and we’ve got a feeling there’s more to the state economy than great barbecue.

Honorable mention: California

A special citation is in order for the Golden State. After all, it’s by far one of the biggest drivers of the nation’s economy among all states.

California is way more than just San Francisco startups, e-commerce, and expensive real estate, though. The California industries that have seen the biggest average payroll growth into 2021? Cleaning services (18.4% growth) and restaurants (13.4% growth).

Small businesses of all stripes are making a roaring resurgence as we approach 2021’s halfway point. That’s not just important for our communities—it’s important for a global economy that relies on more than just big-business behemoths to ensure revenue growth. And if you’re a small business owner, remember that Huckleberry is the one-and-done online solution to all of your business insurance needs. Take 60 seconds now to get a quote.


The Huckleberry analytics team collected all data from the Huckleberry Insurance database in May 2021. Industries profiled correspond to the top 10 NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes by average year-over-year payroll growth rates, across Huckleberry customers representing 100+ NAICS codes. Profession-level average payroll and insurance policy demand figures correspond to data spanning from April 2020 to April 2021.

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