Thursday, August 30, 2018

Census Bureau Counts Ridesharing Workers

A few months ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics disappointed trend trackers with its incomplete update of alternative workers. The update did not include a big chunk of the workforce—all those workers (such as Uber and Lyft drivers) whose jobs depend on gig-enabling technologies. Now the Census Bureau has stepped into the breach. By analyzing the government's "nonemployer" statistics, researchers at the bureau have produced a count of the rideshare workforce and a glimpse of its changing characteristics.

The government defines nonemployers as businesses with no paid employees and annual receipts of $1,000 or more. Most nonemployers are self-employed, and their business is not necessarily their main source of income. The Census Bureau researchers took a look at nonemployers in the "taxi and limousine service" industry over time. What they found is shocking, but not surprising—the 700,565 nonemployers in the taxi and limousine service industry in 2016 were more than three times the 224,000 of 2013. Traditional taxi drivers are also included in these numbers, but the surge is entirely due to the rise of ridesharing.

Not only has the number of ridesharing workers ballooned, but their characteristics have changed. In 2013—before the industry disruption—most nonemployer drivers worked full-time. Only 18 percent also had wage and salary earnings in the same year. The great majority (83 percent) were foreign-born, and just 6 percent were women. The characteristics of nonemployers who started driving in 2015—after the industry disruption—were very different. Most were part-timers. The great majority (73 percent) also had wage and salary earnings in the same year. Only 48 percent were foreign-born, and a larger 21 percent were women. Perhaps the biggest difference between drivers before and after the industry disruption is in their earnings. The 2013 drivers, most of whom worked full-time, earned $41,840 (in 2015 dollars). The 2015 drivers, most of whom worked part-time, earned $11,450.

Source: Census Bureau, What May Be Driving Growth in the "Gig Economy?"—Detailed Look at Taxi, Limousine Services

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