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Killing the Myth of the Gig Economy

It seems the gig economy means much more to pundits than to workers.

"While that didn't surprise those of us who follow the data closely, the release did seem to catch some of the proselytizers of the gig economy by surprise." (Photo by studioEAST/Getty Images)

"While that didn't surprise those of us who follow the data closely, the release did seem to catch some of the proselytizers of the gig economy by surprise." (Photo by studioEAST/Getty Images)

Many pundit types were thrown for a loop by the Labor Department's release of its Contingent Worker Survey yesterday. The survey, the first one since 2005, showed no increase in the percentage of workers employed as independent contractors, such as those who work for Uber and Lyft.

While that didn't surprise those of us who follow the data closely, the release did seem to catch some of the proselytizers of the gig economy by surprise. It turns out that replacing taxi drivers (many of whom are contract workers) by contract workers for Uber and Lyft, has not transformed the labor market.

As has been pointed by out by Larry Mishel and others, most of the people doing gig economy work do it as a sidebar, in addition to their main jobs. But it is worth noting that even here the data points to a decline in the percentage of workers employed in multiple jobs over the last quarter century.

multiple jobs

So even insofar as workers are turning to Uber or TaskRabbit to supplement their income, it seems to a large extent it is substituting for other side work they used to do. It seems the gig economy means much more to pundits than to workers.

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