How much has the gig economy changed in the last 13 years? We’re (finally) about to find out. According to Tyrone Richardson at Bloomberg Law, the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is scheduled to release a report on “contingent and alternative employment arrangements” on June 7, 2018. To put in context how much things have changed since the last time the BLS released such a report—February 2005—that was the same year Destiny’s Child split up and two years before the first iPhone was released. Many of these on-call workers and independent contractors are not included in the BLS’s monthly jobs report despite studies that suggest these types of “alternative” arrangements accounted for 94 percent of net employment growth in the U.S. economy over the last decade.
As of a few months ago, there were approximately 127.7 million full-time gig workers in the United States. And with statistics supporting continued growth into the future, upstart businesses, traditional businesses, and every type of enterprise in between should pay attention. The success, or failure, of your business might very well depend on it.
I don’t know about you, but the nerd in me occasionally likes to play the “how far can it go” game with the gig economy. In other words, I oftentimes find myself thinking, “can the gig workforce fit in that industry or that kind of job?” And when I ask that question, I frequently find myself saying, “nah, surely not there.”
The gig economy continues to be a popular topic of discussion—for policymakers, politicians, lawyers, the media, and others. However, getting a good handle on the scope of the gig economy can be difficult at best. Traditional labor market data has not kept pace with new trends in the economy. As a result, getting good, hard demographic data can be challenging.
The growth and benefits of the gig economy are well documented. By some accounts, more than 31 million individuals in the U.S. workforce derive their primary income from the gig economy, and businesses continue to provide platforms for this kind of work given the fact that it serves as easy access to a scalable source of labor, skills, and other professionals, not to mention the reduced start-up costs and the elimination of common hiring barriers. Up until now, however, you did not hear the gig economy mentioned in the same sentence as the government sector. It seemed to be confined to private sector employers only. However, it should not come as a surprise that the federal government wants to cash in on the benefits of hiring gig workers.
The gig economy continues to grow into all sectors of the modern world. By some accounts, on-demand workers are projected to comprise 43 percent of the United States workforce by 2020. If true, we can anticipate large groups of workers searching for non-traditional, more flexible work options in all industries. While the gig economy model is more pervasive in areas like the ride-sharing industry, we will no doubt continue to see growth in countless others. Could the beauty and grooming industry be up next?
The federal government has not meaningfully measured the contingent workforce since 2005. However, two economists, Lawrence Katz (Harvard) and Alan Krueger (Princeton), conducted a 2015 survey that is currently acknowledged as the best available measurement of the contingent workforce to date. And when Monique Morrissey, an Economist with the Economic Policy Institute, testified before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee early last month, she cited some data from this study.
Ride-sharing giant, Uber, has recently faced accusations that it fails to do enough to preserve the safety of its passengers and drivers. However, on February 16, 2018, a federal judge in Florida rejected a challenge to an important Uber policy that protects passengers and drivers alike by prohibiting guns in Uber vehicles.
The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative has partnered with Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) to introduce the “Gig Economy Data Hub.” Set to launch this spring, the database aims to serve as a comprehensive source of the knowns and unknowns of the gig economy.
According to a report in today’s Washington Examiner, we may be on the verge of getting some hard data that would show just exactly how big the gig economy really is. Reporter Sean Higgins says that the Bureau of Labor Statistics will publish the latest edition of its Contingent Worker Survey this spring that will offer new data on workers doing short-term, non-salaried gigs. An anonymous source in the Labor Department said the study probably will be published in April, according to Higgins.