With the emergence of apps such as Task Rabbit, GrubHub, Uber Eats, as well various ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft, half of Millennials and a fourth of baby boomers report having a “side hustle.” Whether it’s to save up for something in particular or to practice a skill, Americans are pursuing alternate means to supplement their primary income.
The U.S. Labor Department assessed this shift towards a secondary source of income, however, their data shows there are fewer workers in the gig economy today than before Uber got off the ground. The report stated, “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 have reportedly questioned the extent of the study–according to the Chicago Tribune, the study only asked people “about their primary job, so if someone is driving for Lyft in the evenings or weekends to earn more money, that is not captured in the report. This omission has led some experts to believe the gig economy is much bigger than the government data suggest.”
Many have urged that “there are profound shifts that appear to be happening in the labor force that are not captured by the report…More and more companies are outsourcing primary tasks – from janitorial work to computer programming – to third-party companies.” Moreover, experts had concerns surrounding counting jobs the person considers as full-time and done in the past week. Similarly, “economists at Harvard and Princeton estimated that the share of all on-call workers, contract employees, freelancers, temporary staffers and others in ‘alternative work arrangements’ rose to 15.8 percent at the end of 2015, a sizable uptick from the 10.7 percent that the BLS measured in 2005.”
Some fear the emergence of the gig economy signifies the traditional job market’s inability to meet workers’ needs. The Labor Department’s former chief economist, Heidi Shierholz, implored “we should be spending most of our time thinking about boosting wages in traditional jobs so people don’t need a side hustle” and that the data depicts “the vast majority of workers in the United States still have traditional jobs as their main source of income” rather than their only source.
In publishing its report, it’s unclear whether the Labor Department is making forecasts about the conditions of the U.S. economy and consumers as a whole. Side jobs could be seen as potential underemployment and a demand for increased income in the traditional job market. The New York Post published the following infographics in an attempt to give readers more insight into the gig economy: