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New report shows that the number of contingent workers is actually declining

New report shows that the number of contingent workers is actually declining
[Photo: Marc Mueller/Pexels]

Fewer people were working temporary jobs in 2017 than in 2005, according to the most recent data on contingent workers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Contingent workers, at least some of whom include Uber drivers, Handy craftsmen, and other exemplars of the gig economy, are defined as those who “do not have an implicit or explicit contract for ongoing employment.” In May 2017, there were 5.9 million contingent workers making up somewhere between 1.3% and 3.8% of total employment, according to the study. In February 2005, contingent workers made up 1.8% to 4.1% of total employment. There were also fewer freelancers in 2017 than in 2005. Independent contractors totaled 10.6 million or 6.9% of employment in 2017 compared with  7.4% of employment in 2005. Here’s the full breakdown of non-traditional workers:

  • Contingent workers: 5.9 million
  • Independent contractors: 10.6 million
  • On-call workers: 2.6 million
  • Temporary help agency workers: 1.4 million
  • Workers provided by contract firms: 933,000

Unsurprisingly, contingent workers make less than their employed counterparts. They also tend to be younger. The last report indicated that contingent workers were more likely to be female, but in this more current survey, only 47% of contingent workers were women. Though more than three-quarters of contingent workers are white, 22% are Hispanic. Only 16% of non-contingent workers are Hispanic. Most notably, “over half of contingent workers would have preferred a permanent job in May 2017,” the report says.

It also notes that temporary help agency workers are more likely to be black or Hispanic. Two-thirds of independent workers, who are older and enjoy their work status, are men.

This report gives us a much better understanding the ever-shifting landscape of work, though, as Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel writes, it has some fundamental flaws.

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