A government report released on Thursday, June 7, shows that despite the worries of some economists and policymakers over the past few years, the increase in non-traditional jobs such as freelancing have not had a major impact on America’s economy. While it may seem that everyone is their own boss now, the report indicates that only about 10 percent of people in the U.S. are considered to have “alternative work arrangements,” which includes sources of income that range from driving for Uber to working for a temporary-help agency.
To be fair, this report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not count people who still have traditional jobs and use non-traditional work as a secondary income source. It is not uncommon for Americans to turn their hobbies into freelancing opportunities or work part-time to earn some extra cash. While apps like Uber and websites like Upwork, which matches clients and freelancers, have amplified this culture, they have not had much effect on primary sources of income.
In fact, the number of people with alternative incomes has slightly decreased since 2005, the last time the government formally studied non-traditional work, at which time the number was roughly 11 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set to release a follow-up report in September which will give a more in-depth look at online workers.
It is also worth noting that the demographics of who fall into the “alternative work arrangements” category are rather broad. On one end of the spectrum is the largest group, independent contractors, who tend to be in their mid-40s and work in industries such as construction. On the other end are young professionals who tend to work for temporary-help agencies, make much less and have reported being less happy with their non-traditional work status than their older counterparts.
Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, blames social media for the myth that everyone is freelancing and making tons of money by doing so. “Because of social media and stories out there,” said Gimbel, “I think the perception of the contingent workforce has been inflated.”
There’s still much confusion surrounding the report, though, as economists Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger conducted their own report in 2015 and came to starkly different conclusions on the rate at which Americans are working alternatively. In any case, what is clear is that the trend towards non-traditional work has not been the detriment some worried it would be.