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MINORITY WOMEN OWNERS LEAD CENSUS COUNT

The number of U.S. businesses owned by minority women is soaring, and outstripping U.S. business growth in general.

The number of companies owned by Hispanic women rose 87 percent between 2007 and 2012, while the number of companies owned by black women rose nearly 68 percent, according to preliminary figures released last week by the Census Bureau and analyzed by the National Women's Business Council, a government agency. The number of businesses owned by Asian women rose 44 percent.

Overall, the number of women-owned businesses rose nearly 28 percent, to 10 million. Women also have a growing share of all the companies in the country — 36 percent in 2012 versus nearly 30 percent in 2007.

But the Census figures showed a dark side to U.S. business growth. The total number of companies was almost stagnant at 27.6 million. The years between the two Census business counts included the recession and very weak early recovery. During that time, many companies failed, and many would-be entrepreneurs either shied away from taking risks or couldn't get funding for a new startup.

The jump in the number of women-owned companies may be another reflection of the impact of the recession; many women who started businesses may have lost their own jobs to layoffs. However, the big increases in minority women ownership also point to more opportunities for Hispanic, black, Asian and other groups.

Women-owned companies also tended to be small, with only about 10 percent employing workers. But the number of people employed by a woman owner rose to nearly 9 million in 2012 from 7.5 million in 2007.

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