Turns out the gig economy is gradually shrinking

Two recent reports one from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and one from the Economic Policy Institute show that the gig economy is on the decline.

It seems like the gig economy is booming, with much talk in the media about the death of the regular job, and seemingly everyone freelancing and driving for Uber. But two recent reports – one from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), published last year, and one from the Economic Policy Institute, published in February – show that the contingent work market is actually declining.


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The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) data covered a ten-year period, from 2005-2017. The report measures “contingent” work as a contract employee or temporary help, independent contracting, or day labor work.

The changes toward standard work and away from contingent work were gradual, yet real and noticeable.

  • In 2005, the total percentage of the labor force working in nonstandard work arrangements was 10.9%. In 2017, it was 10.1%. By comparison, the previous BLS report had similar percentages.
  • The independent contractor workforce is getting increasingly older, and older workers were more likely to be independent contractors than any other age group in both 2005 and 2017. Still, they also saw a decline. Independent workers between the ages of 55-64 went from 10.8% in 2005 to 9.3% in 2017.
  • Between 2005 and 2017, the percentage of workers who were independent contractors fell: from 7.4% to 6.9%.

Other findings

  • The most popular segment of contingent work? You guessed it: transportation and utilities, at 22%.
  • In May 2017, 89.9% of the workforce was employed in a standard arrangement as their main job.

Looks like we’re not all going to turn into Taskrabbits anytime soon.


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.