- When the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS) reported last year that the contingent workforce was shrinking, myriad forecasters who claimed nonstandard workers would soon dominate the labor force were confused by the findings. But a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Center for Economic and Policy Research appears to back BLS’ report.
- Workers were actually more likely to be in standard jobs in 2017 than in 2005, according to the new data. The number of workers in nonstandard jobs, also known as alternative work arrangements, steadily decreased from 10.9% in 2005 to 10.1% in 2017, according to EPI.
- Still, other studies disagree, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office is looking into BLS' measurements.
When BLS' numbers came out last year, some worried that the findings would derail efforts update U.S. employment laws and regulations to better account for nontraditional workers. And that largely seems to be what EPI is recommending: "Remaking labor law, as has been proposed, to accommodate work relationships in the online gig economy ... seems both unnecessary and unwise," the authors concluded, speaking about one proposal to add a third category in between "employee" and "independent contractor"; the "independent worker" would include those who drive for Uber and Lyft, for example. Instead, better policies for independent contractors could be useful, EPI concluded, suggesting a crack down on misclassification.
Despite the BLS and EPI findings, employers continue to report that they plan to expand their use of independent contractors. Many see such talent plans as a way to remain agile in an uncertain economy; others have said its how they plan to accomplish special projects while also relieving an over-burdened staff. One study found that employers plan to replace up to a third of their full-time positions with contingent workers.