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Hiring Insights Blog

The Myths & Realities of the U.S. Gig Economy
Economist Corner
Friday, Nov 30, 2018

The “gig economy,” “on-demand economy” and “contingent workforce” consist of people taking short-term jobs instead of open-ended full- or part-time employment, and the participants fall into four categories: independent contractors, freelancers, and on-call and short-term temporary employees. Online platforms have enabled novel ways of pursuing such work, raising many questions about how best to measure and understand these workers.

The U.S. government’s estimates of the size of the contingent workforce range widely. After adding in all forms of alternative work, they estimate there are up to 15.5 million people relying on contingent and alternative work for their primary source of income – that’s 10.1% of total employment. Most analysts think that understates the reach of this kind of work, since many more people rely on it for supplementary income. Other experts have weighed in with their own data, and still the calls for more research continue.

The appetite for insights continues to grow for all stakeholders. With unemployment less than four percent and employers struggling to fill more than 7 million outstanding open positions, employers can use contingent workers as an alternative pool of labor. It’s one that can be adjusted as demand ebbs and flows over the business cycle. In some cases, it may be the primary channel for accessing talent that prefers a less rigid form of employment.

Indeed, gig work is far more than the media caricature of low-skilled and low-wage work. For many people, this can be an exciting career path, allowing flexibility and the ability to progress a career across different companies, industries and areas of expertise. In fact, there is an unheralded majority of contingent workers who enjoy this flexible arrangement and have been doing so for years.

This report will help companies and workers understand the new opportunities that such arrangements bring. To shed light on the demographics and motivations for contingent work, iCIMS surveyed 1,000 Americans who hold at least one contingent job as their primary or secondary income and examined hiring data from the 4,000 companies using iCIMS’ recruiting platform.