My favorite source of gig economy data, The State of Independence in America, recently announced its 2019 findings. When I was writing my most recent book, Thriving in the Gig Economy, it seemed like a new report was being released every month, so trying to reconcile the results was often a challenge. (I explored the issues of gig economy data in my previous blog post. “Three things to know about Gig Economy Data.)
The State of Independence in America became my favorite because it is the longest running survey and provides 8 years of data on what is becoming an increasingly dynamic segment – not just of our workforce but of our economy.
Key Takeaways for Independent Workers
Here are the five things you should know about the findings in the 2019 report:
- The economic impact continues to grow. The study estimates 41 million people identify as independent workers, whether they define themselves as freelancers, soloists, contractors, consultants or self-employed. They generated nearly $1.3 trillion in revenue for the US economy which translates to 6.2% of our 2018 GDP.
- The core of full-time independents working independently by choice is growing, It is no surprise that the number of full time independents has declined, given the low unemployment rate the US has enjoyed. Independent workers have been wooed back into the employee ranks. Interestingly though, it is those that the study has classified as reluctant independents who have gone back to regular employment. In 2012, 34% of full-time independents were reluctant. In 2019, that number has dropped to 19%. Put another way, 81% of full-time independents are working independently by choice.
- The Occasional Independents segment is booming. This cohort, defined as those who do gigs sporadically at least once a month is booming for economic, demographic and technological reasons. Although the US has had more than a 120 month expansion, wages have not grown. In order to make ends meet, many Americans have opted to bring in extra cash by driving for Lyft or doing some deliveries. Boomers, who once may have been full-time independents are reducing their workloads pre-retirement. And for anyone interested in picking up a side gig, technology in the form of on-demand platforms ismaking it easier to find occasional work.
- Full-time Independent Workers are highly satisfied with their career path.Despite the headlines bemoaning the increase in gig workers, 76% of Full-time independents said they were satisfied with their career choice. This compares to 63% in 2012. 89% said they were happier working on their own. Most interesting to me is that more than half feel that independent work is more secure than regular employment.
- The global nature of the business is expanding. The gig economy has always been viewed as a global movement, but much of that was by virtue of the supply side of the market; the talent is worldwide. The difference in this year’s study though was about the demand side. 22% of US independents were earning revenues from foreign clients, up from 12% in 2013. This can be attributed to the growing sophistication of the talent marketplaces as well as the increased adoption by businesses worldwide of project based work that lends itself to independent work models.
As it has in the past, the latest version of the state f Independence in America Report should offer independent workers a strong endorsement of this career choice. For more on the report, check out the full study at the MBO Partners website.