Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Gig Workforce in 2017...but more to come

If you think gig workers are a growing share of the U.S. labor force, the results of the latest survey of gig work appear to contradict the notion. According to the long-awaited Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2017 estimate of the gig workforce, measured through a special supplement to the Current Population Survey, there has been no growth or even decline since 2005 in the proportion of American workers who, in their main job, are what the BLS calls "contingent or alternative." These workers include independent contractors, on-call, temporary, and contract workers, as well as those working short stints (contingent). This is the first update of the BLS' contingent and alternative worker survey since 2005 (pre-Uber!), and the finding of little to no growth doesn't make sense. What's the explanation?

Here is the explanation: a whole lot of alternative workers (millions!) are missing from these latest counts. A highlighted box in the news release notes...
"Four new questions were added to the May 2017 Contingent Worker Supplement. These questions were designed to identify individuals who found short tasks or jobs through a mobile app or website and were paid through the same app or website. BLS continues to evaluate the data from these new questions; the data do not appear in this news release [emphasis added]. When available, additional information will be at Findings from this research will be published in a Monthly Labor Review article by September 30, 2018."
So, we will have to wait a bit longer for the much-anticipated official measure of the real size of the gig workforce.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Summary

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