Who Works in the App-Based Gig Economy? 5 New Findings

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently begun studying the gig economy. Here are 5 surprising facts about gig workers.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new research today on the makeup of the rising gig economy. The government agency has recently begun studying the gig economy, which it refers to as the contingent workforce. Today, they added new research on workers who participate in the tech-enabled gig economy through services and apps such as Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit or Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

The BLS, which refers to the workers who perform work through these tech services as “electronically mediated work,” states that there were 1.6 million of these workers during the time of the survey (May 2017). That accounts for 1% of total employment in the US.

But the size of the workforce using these apps wasn’t the only aspect the BLS examined. It also looked at the scope of these 1.6 million workers, including demographics, industries, and employment status.

Here are some of the most notable findings from the BLS report.

Slightly more of the work is done in-person than online

Of the workers that used app services to find or conduct work, approximately 990,000 did the work in-person. By comparison, 701,000 performed the work entirely online.

For gig workers using apps like Lyft or TaskRabbit, this is likely not surprising. Much of the apps connect services online, but the jobs that need to be done are often completed on the ground. That said, a substantial portion of the work is completed without having to be in-person.

This breakdown is consistent across all age groups. However, those workers between the ages of 25 and 54 were more likely to perform work done entirely online.

Self-employed workers are more likely to use electronically mediated work

Self-employed workers were more likely to participate in these app services. According to the BLS, 4% of those classified as doing electronically mediated work were self-employed while 1% were wage or salary workers.

More part-time workers are participating

While more workers were classified as full-time (35 hours or more) rather part part-time, represented in the data as 72% to 28% respectively, the BLS found that part-time workers are generally more likely to be using these tech-enabled services.

Work done entirely online drives up the education attainment

Compared with workers overall, those 25-years or older using these app services to perform work were more likely to have bachelor’s degrees or higher. The BLS notes that this is driven by the number of those workers performing entirely online. 67% of those doing that work entirely online had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Top industries were professional services, transportation

Approximately 499,000 of the workers using the electronically mediated services were classified as professional and business services. Meanwhile, approximately 351,000 were classified under transportation and utilities.

Importantly, as a percentage of total employment, those in the transportation and utilities industry were the most likely to participate in these app-based gig services at 5%.While the data is still high level, it sheds some light on where and how the gig economy is expanding and impacting specific industries. We’ll likely have to wait longer for more information to emerge from the BLS. The agency notes that it “currently don’t have plans to collect information on electronically mediated work again.”

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