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News from EPI Workers were more likely to have standard work arrangements in 2017 than in 2005

A new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Economic Policy Institute finds that there has been surprisingly little change in work trends over the past 12 years. Indeed, workers are more apt to have standard work arrangements in 2017 than in 2005. Furthermore, the gig economy only represents a very small (about 1 percent) share of workers.

“Despite the ubiquity of Uber and Lyft drivers in our major cities, the gig economy does not currently hold the key to the future of work,” said co-author and CEPR Co-Director Eileen Appelbaum.

In this report, CEPR and EPI examine a broad range of nonstandard work arrangements—employment by a temporary help agency, a contract company, as an on-call worker, day laborer, or independent contractor. Gig work is defined as electronically mediated work—short jobs or tasks arranged and paid through websites or apps. Unlike traditional employer-employee relationships, gig workers—like other independent contractors—lack an employer.

The report finds that, in spite of the rising popularity of service apps like Uber, workers were slightly more likely to have standard work arrangements in 2017 than in 2005. Specifically, in May 2017, the total share of the labor force working in nonstandard work arrangements was 10.1 percent, down from 10.9 percent in 2005. That means nine out of 10 workers were employed in a standard work arrangement in their main job—and this proportion has been relatively stable since 1995.

Data from JP Morgan Chase Institute (JPMCI) that uses a different methodology from BLS reaches the same conclusion: In May 2017, the share of gig economy workers was only about one percent.

Older workers in 2017 were the least likely to be employed in electronically mediated work, or the gig economy, with just 0.8 percent for both the 55–64 and 65+ age groups. Most gig economy workers are 25 to 54 years old.