Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Measuring Rides and Rooms

Another day, another study of the gig economy—whose presence can be felt, but whose size and shape remain a mystery. That's because the Bureau of Labor Statistics has not measured what it calls "alternative work arrangements" since 2005 (it will do so again in 2017). To fill the gap, a number of economists have attempted to measure the gig economy by adding questions about alternative work to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Survey of Consumer Expectations and to RAND's American Life Panel.

Now researchers at the Brookings Institution have mined the Census Bureau's data on nonemployer firms (the majority are self-employed, unincorporated sole proprietors), and they find a rapid rise in these small businesses over the past few years—particularly in the transportation (rides, such as Uber and Lyft) and accommodation (rooms, such as Airbnb) industries. Most of the gig growth in these industries has taken place in the 25 largest metro areas, with 92 percent of rides growth and 70 percent of rooms growth taking place in the top 50 metro areas. But—and surprisingly—the analysis also shows that rides and rooms gigging has not yet cut into payroll (traditional) employment.

"These data lend credence to the contention that Uber and Airbnb are meeting unmet consumer demand or stimulating new demand through innovative service offerings," the researchers conclude. "Yet it is still early," they caution.

Source: Brookings Institution, Tracking the Gig Economy: New Numbers

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