Amid Job Numbers Blowout, Gig Economy Thrives

gig economy instawork

On Friday (Feb. 1), the government reported job numbers that blew away expectations. Data from the BLS and ADP, triangulated against the PYMNTS/Hyperwallet Gig Economy Index, showed that as full-time jobs are gaining ground, so is the gig economy, and across several of the same sectors. We break down some of the numbers.

It may be said that one data point does not make a trend, but how about 100 data points?

News came on Friday (Feb. 1) morning, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that United States payrolls had increased by 304,000 positions in January. The number was eye-popping in that it beat expectations by 130,000 jobs. The latest reading represents 100 straight months of job gains  thus, a trend has been forming, with several verticals gaining ground.

Broadly speaking, job gains have been far-reaching across sectors, including service-oriented positions like leisure and hospitality, which added 74,000 jobs. Healthcare and education showed a boost of 55,000 jobs.

Beyond the BLS data, the strong January growth was presaged earlier in the week by numbers from ADP, which showed that there was a 213,000 job increase in the month for nonfarm private sector employment. Digging into the data, the service-producing sector was up by 145,000. Within that category, the professional and business subset was up by 46,000, education and health were up 38,000 positions, leisure and hospitality were up 31,000, and financial activities saw gains of 11,000.

In further exegesis of the jobs data, the BLS found that, in January, the number of workers employed part-time in non-agricultural positions for economic reasons stood at 5.1 million individuals, with another 20.5 million employed in that part-time capacity for non-economic reasons  as defined by family or personal reasons, school or training, or limits on earnings tied to Social Security or retirement benefits.

The highest-level data showed job growth, and a significant presence of part-time workers. The high-level discussion also shed light on other avenues of growth — namely, the gig economy.

None of the data overlapped exactly, spanning the BLS and ADP, or the joint efforts of PYMNTS and Hyperwallet in the latest Gig Economy Index, released last month. However, to quote an old investment maxim: “It’s better to be generally right than precisely wrong.”

Against that backdrop and mentality, we can infer some trends, and see where the growth lies.

Consider the fact that the Gig Economy Index showed 54 percent of the more than 9,700 individuals who identified as gig workers — that identification stood at 36 percent of the sample — also hold full-time jobs, and that tally is up from 47.9 percent as measured in the second quarter of 2018. Our survey data, combined with that of the BLS, showed that the gig labor force in 2017 included more than 87.5 million people who collectively earned about $1.63 trillion in income.

Where The Jobs Are

Value lies in expertise, which translates into extra income. As PYMNTS also found, the portion of gig workers who have training from fields that are traditionally “nine to five” or full-time careers has been on the rise. The business and financial industries have seen traction in the gig economy, as evidenced, too, by the big-picture numbers from the BLS and ADP. In the case of the latter, the financial sector added more than 11,000 jobs in the month.

Gig workers’ primary gig jobs in the business and finance realms stood at 7.1 percent in the third quarter of 2018, up from 3.8 percent in the first quarter. Similarly dovetailing with the BLS and ADP data, healthcare-related jobs were 4 percent of gig workers’ primary gigs, up from 3.7 percent at the start of the year. In healthcare segment, as estimated by ADP, 37,000 jobs had been added in the month.

Arts and entertainment made up 14 percent of gig workers’ primary gigs, standing overwhelmingly as the biggest “sector” in which respondents plied part-time trades or project work — up from 12.3 percent earlier in 2018. Here, the BLS data showed that arts, entertainment and recreation jobs were 2.4 million in the latest reading, up a bit from the beginning of 2018.

Job And Gig Worker Gains

The implication here is that, even as job growth has continued over a series of years, people are still looking to pad their bottom lines with extra work. Only 21.5 percent of the professionals surveyed did not want to find gig jobs, indicating that the lure of the gig economy is a strong one amid a markedly strong economy.

PYMNTS data showed, too, that economy participation rose from 33.8 percent to 35.6 percent quarter over quarter. This is seen as a break in the cyclical participation-rate pattern, but also as the highest participation rate observed since PYMNTS’ first Gig Economy Report in 2016.