THEY'RE mostly still small service providers and retailers, but the number of black-owned businesses in America is growing rapidly.
Overall, the number of black-owned businesses increased 46 percent, from 424,165 in 1987 to 620,192 in 1992, the Census Bureau reports. That was well ahead of the 26 percent increase in all businesses in the country.
At the same time, receipts by these companies jumped 63 percent, compared with a 67 percent increase in receipts for all businesses in the nation.
''A strong minority-business community benefits America as a whole,'' says Joan Parrott-Fonseca, director of the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency. ''Simply put, our nation's diversity will prove to be our meal ticket into the 21st century.''
Agency analysts suggest that the strong growth in the number of businesses was fueled by blacks who retired at relatively young ages and launched their own businesses.
The result was a large number of small companies. The report notes that 94 percent of black-owned firms are individual proprietorships, compared with about 85 percent for all businesses. Overall, black-owned companies accounted for 3.6 percent of all businesses in the United States in 1992 but just 1 percent of sales and receipts.
Census statistician Valerie Strang says many of the businesses are ''mom-and-pop firms'' seeking supplemental income rather than a main source of income for a family.