In a stunning Tuesday report, Gallup CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton revealed that “for the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births.”

Clifton says for the past six years since 2008, employer business startups have fallen below the business failure rate, spurring what he calls “an underground earthquake” that only stands to worsen as lagging U.S. Census data becomes available.

“Let’s get one thing clear: This economy is never truly coming back unless we reverse the birth and death trends of American businesses,” writes Clifton.

gallup-business-deaths-graph-300x268

Indeed, the numbers are striking. Contrary to the oft-cited 26 million businesses in America figure, Clifton says 20 million of these so-called “businesses” are merely companies on paper with zero workers, profits, customers, or sales. In reality, America has just 6 million businesses with one or more employers–3.8 million of which have four or fewer employees. In total, these 6 million U.S. companies provide jobs for more than 100 million people in America.

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