That might be a difficult task due to conflicting data.
Two government agencies plan new research to more accurately count the companies and workers in the so-called gig economy, which also has been labeled the on-demand economy, and better understand trends of that realm.
The “share of U.S. jobs without a formal employer-employee relationship is large and growing,” but some data shows the opposite, Jim Spletzer, an economist for the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies, wrote in a recent government blog post. Jobs in the so-called gig economy include freelance and contract workers.
Census Bureau data derived from tax filings support self-employment growth over the last several decades, Spletzer said. The share of U.S. nonemployer organizations has grown from 73.1 percent in 2005 to 75.9 percent in 2014 vs. a decline in employer establishments from 26.9 percent to 24.1 percent during the same time frame, according to the agency. (See chart above.)
In comparison, the share of the self-employed workforce as reported in household surveys, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, has been declining for more than 20 years, Spletzer said.
However, BLS data on gig workers is over 10 years old. In 2005, independent contractors represented 7 percent of all workers and contingent workers accounted for roughly 3 percent.
Certainly, those percentages are higher today given increased corporate downsizing, employment shifts after the Great Recession and the growth of on-demand companies since 2005. The question is how much higher.
In May, the BLS plans to collect new data on contingent workers. Supplemental questions in its Current Population Survey will focus on the characteristics of workers in contingent jobs — those lasting a certain period of time — and other non-traditional arrangements, such as on-call workers and temporary workers.
In addition, the Census Bureau is starting to research independent contractors to determine whether they’re exclusively self employed, if they use self-employment income to supplement earnings from traditional employer jobs and how many nontraditional “gig” jobs they hold per year.