LITTLE BUSINESS: Nine Lives

The Senate Small Business Committee cheerfully reported last week: in the first two years of war, only 17% more firms shut their doors than in the last two years of peace—despite rationing, shortages of men and goods, etc. The net shrinkage was from 3,340,000 U.S. firms at the time of Pearl Harbor to 2,840,000 at the end of last year. But an analysis of the casualties was brighter than the bare figures.

Retailers, who make up more than half of all businesses, accounted for more than half of all the closings. Construction and service businesses were next with a 36%...