Companies such as Uber and Lyft — which offer workers flexible work without being employed by a traditional company — have been held up as transformational forces in the American economy. Experts predicted more companies would follow their lead, turning America into a nation of “independent contractors.”

But the so-called gig economy, which has drawn massive attention, billions of dollars in venture capital, and praise and steep criticism from policymakers, doesn’t appear to have caused a major disruption to work after all.

That is a clear takeaway from a new report out Thursday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that assessed the size of America’s “gig economy” for the first time since 2005. The report found that the share of American workers in these types of jobs has shrunk over the past 13 years — a time before Uber and its brethren even existed.

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In 2017, 6.9 percent of U.S. workers were independent contractors, meaning their primary job wasn’t direct employment at a company. That was down from 7.4 percent in 2005 and is barely higher than the 6.7 percent of workers who were independent contractors in 1995.

Experts cautioned that tracking the gig economy is a uniquely difficult task, but they say the findings suggest traditional employment remains the principal driver of economic activity in the United States. The BLS surveyed 60,000 households last year for the report, making it by far the largest and most comprehensive look at non-traditional workers.

“What this says to me is the vast majority of workers in the United States still have traditional jobs as their main source of income,” said Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the Labor Department. “We should be spending most of our time thinking about boosting wages in traditional jobs so people don’t need a side hustle.”

That said, there are profound shifts that appear to be happening in the labor force that are not captured by the report, including outsourcing and the rise of the “side hustle.” More and more companies are outsourcing primary tasks — from janitorial work to computer programming — to third-party companies, a trend that the report didn’t address and that many economists believe holds down wages.

The BLS asked people only about their primary job, so if someone is driving for Lyft in the evenings or …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News


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Gig economy is smaller now than before Uber existed, official data show

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