Today’s BLS Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements survey results represent an important addition to our knowledge regarding the level and distribution of non-traditional work arrangements in the US economy. The first of their kind in a dozen years, the data show that between 2005 and 2017 the share of independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers and workers provided by contract firms declined, relative to 2005 levels.
Taken at face value, the results indicate that the role of non-traditional work arrangements in the US economy has remained largely unchanged during the past 20 years, even as excitement and media coverage of the growth of the “gig economy” has increased.
This does not mean that technological changes which occurred during this period had no meaningful impact on the labor market. Previous Census Bureau data does show a marked recent increase in self-employment in select industries, such as transportation. However, the ability of employers to increase their use of “gig economy” arrangements has been slowed by the process of adapting new technologies like online labor market platforms to business. In addition, current labor market regulations act as an additional obstacle by not clearly delineating boundaries between employees and independent workers, or providing for new categories which may offer workers a better combination of employment flexibility and access to health and savings benefits packages. In the future, companies and regulators may adopt practices to allow for faster growth in non-traditional working arrangements.
The Conference Board looks forward to studying these new BLS data to describe for members and the public how the distribution of non-traditional work arrangements has changed by occupation, industry, and location during the last 12 years. These data will be a centerpiece of forthcoming research that will incorporate member perspective on the factors influencing their use of non-traditional work arrangements.