The report found that 16.5 million people are working in “contingent” or “alternative work arrangements.” Nearly 6 million people, 3.8 percent of workers, held contingent jobs in the U.S. in May. Another 10.6 million were working as independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers and for contract firms.
The numbers, which include jobs at gig economy leaders such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, dwarf other more high-profile industries. The coal industry, for example, employs about 80,000 Americans, and steel employs about 150,000. The figures give academics and activists their first real hard data as courts, workers and employees struggle with the consequences of a changing work environment.
To date, private estimates of the size of the gig economy have varied wildly, with economists calculating that non-traditional work arrangements account for anywhere between 0.1 percent of full-time employment and 34 percent.
Although the BLS study will become the base for much future research, the snapshot does not give a complete picture.
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