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CareerSource Florida, a government agency serving the state of Florida, recently released a report highlighting the growth of the gig economy in the state and emphasizing the positive impact it has had on the state’s economy. “The Study on the Gig Economy and Florida’s Workforce System” details information about the size and impact of the gig economy on the nation’s third-largest state.

While U.S. lawmakers grapple with the dynamics of the gig economy, our neighbor to the north is witnessing a dramatic increase in the number of gig workers. A recent article in the Toronto Star discussed a new study from Statistics Canada which “found a dramatic increase in gig workers.” Specifically, the study found that the number of gig workers in Canada “jumped by 70% between 2005 and 2016, from 1 million to 1.7 million — an increase from 5.5% of all workers aged 15 and older to 8.2%.” In Toronto, one in 10 workers obtained some of their income from the gig economy in 2016 according to the study. 

Headlines from mainstream news outlets are reporting that today’s Labor Department report on Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements shows that the gig economy is shrinking. “The gig economy is actually smaller than it used to be,” says Marketwatch. From the Washington Post: “There’s a smaller share of workers in the gig economy today than before Uber existed.” From the Los Angeles Times: “Share of Americans working as independent contractors dips.” And most dramatically from Quartz Media: “Everything we thought we knew about the gig economy is wrong.”

The explosion of freelance work has changed the economy in a number of significant ways. After all, by some accounts, 43 percent of U.S. workers will have some involvement in the gig economy by as early as 2020. Of the major industries being impacted, the mortgage lending business seems ripe for drastic changes to longstanding lending guidelines. 

When you last heard from me regarding the state of the gig economy, the discussion at the beginning of 2018 focused on the fact that small businesses were joining large corporations in embracing the on-demand model. Now, let’s shift focus from the “who” to the “where” and the “what.”

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.

According to a recently released study by American Express and Institutional Investor, we can expect to see a slight increase in the use of freelancers and contract workers in the year ahead.

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 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.

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.

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