Key Job Facts About the Gig Economy
The workplace has transformed from one where many workers had the same employer for most of their working life to one where job changes are much more frequent, and where many workers choose short-term gigs over permanent long-term employment.
Being a self-employed worker without the restrictions of a boss has traditionally been an aspiration for many American workers. What’s better than being able to set your own hours, and to work where and when you want?
- Construction (+8 percent)
- Finance (+8 percent)
- Software/IT Services (+5 percent)
Some industries showed a reduction in the number of self-employed workers:
- Public Safety (-16 percent)
- Retail (-12 percent)
- Arts (-11 percent)
- Recreation/Travel (-9 percent)
- Agriculture (-8 percent)
Common Occupations for Freelance Employment
According to Upwork, a leading online network linking freelancers to employers, popular freelance occupations include: designers and creatives, web, mobile and software developers, administrative support specialists, writers and translators, accounting/finance/consulting professionals, IT and networking professionals, sales/marketing/customer service professionals, lawyers/paralegals, engineers and architects, and data science/analytics specialists.
Careercast also lists home health aides, occupational therapists, and delivery drivers as other occupations with growth opportunities for freelancers.
Where the Jobs Are — and Aren’t
According to the BLS, 21 states had higher rates of self-employment than the national average of 10.1 percent in 2015. The states with the highest rates include:
- Montana 16.1 percent
- Maine 15.4 percent
- Vermont 14.4 percent
- South Dakota 14.2 percent
Twenty-nine state states had lower rates of self-employment. The lowest include:
- District of Columbia 7.1 percent
- Delaware 7.2 percent
- Alabama 7.5 percent
Self-Employment By Age
Inpiduals 65 years old and older had the highest level of self-employment at 24.1 percent, followed by those aged 55 to 64 at 14.7 percent, 45 to 54 years old at 11.8 percent, 35 to 44 years old at 10.1 percent, 25 to 34 years old at 5.7 percent, and 16 to 24 years old at 2.2 percent.
Self-Employment By Gender
Men were much more likely to be self-employed at 12.3 percent, while only 7.5 percent of women were self-employed.
Self-Employment By Educational Level
Levels of self-employment varied somewhat, but not dramatically, by the level of educational attainment according to the BLS. Those workers who possessed professional or doctoral degrees were an exception and experienced much higher levels of self-employment:
- 21.3 percent of inpiduals with a professional degree, such as doctors, lawyers, and architects who maintain private practices, were self-employed.
- 16.6 percent of those with a doctoral degree worked independently.
- Workers with a high school degree and those with a bachelor's degree had a self-employment rate of 11.2 percent.
- Those with a master's degree came in at 9.3 percent.
Self-Employment By Country of Origin and Race
Foreign-brn workers were somewhat more likely to be self-employed than their US-brn counterparts. The self-employment rate for foreign-brn inpiduals was 11.2 percent and only 9.8 percent for native-brn workers.
White workers (10.9 percent) were more likely to be self-employed than Black/African American (5.2 percent), Asians (9.6 percent), or Latinos (8.3 percent).
Self-Employment: By Choice or Forced?
LinkedIn ProFinder reports that of freelancers surveyed, over 50 percent had plans never to return to traditional full-time employment and wanted to work independently. Almost 20 percent say they’ll make six figures or more this year from freelancing.
The Mckinsey Global Institute survey indicated that 70 percent of self-employed workers had freely chosen that status either as a primary or supplemental source of income. The remaining 30 percent of self-employed inpiduals were in that situation either as "reluctants" who would prefer traditional jobs or "financially strapped" inpiduals who were forced to supplement their income through independent work.
Workers who were thrust into self-employment are more likely to be underemployed and many may generate little or no income from their ventures. So, unemployment figures may not fully represent this group of workers who might respond as self-employed to surveys by the government.
Future Projections for the Gig Economy
Even the BLS projects that non-agricultural self-employment will increase by close to 7 percent from 2014 — 2024. Intuit estimated a much higher level of self-employment (43 percent) by 2020. This trend will be impacted by the availability of reasonably priced and portable healthcare for workers who aren't affiliated with employers on a full-time basis.
Where to Find the Jobs: Top 10 Best Sites for Gig Jobs
More About the Gig Economy: What You Need to Start Freelancing | 27 Jobs Where You Can Set Your Own Schedule
Self-employment statistics provided by the Bureau of Labr Statistics’ Self-Employment in the United States (2016)