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SIA estimates ‘gig workforce’ at 29% of US workers

August 17, 2016

Contingent workers represented 29% of all US workers last year, or 44 million people, according to new research by Staffing Industry Analysts. And the contingent workers represented $792.4 billion in staffing buyer spend.

Staffing Industry Analysts’ definition of contingent workers includes more than just temporary workers sourced through staffing firms. Of the 29% of US workers identified as contingent workers, they include:

  • Temporary workers assigned through staffing firms, 6.2%
  • Human cloud workers, 6.4%
  • Independent contractor/self-employed with no employees, 15.5%
  • Temporary employees sourced directly without the use of a staffing firm, 3.6%
  • Statement-of-work consultants employed by a consulting firm, 1.9%

The term contingent work and “gig work” are used synonymously by Staffing Industry Analysts instead of a more narrow definition of gig work that includes only limited duration tasks facilitated by an online platform. Staffing Industry Analysts describes the latter as “human cloud workers.” As a note, Staffing Industry Analysts’ definition excludes firms such as Airbnb and Zipcar that are part of the “sharing economy” but not part of the gig economy.

While the number of contingent workers may seem large, a substantial number of these workers are moonlighters who may be performing contingent work as a supplement to a traditional, full-time job. Moonlighting is prevalent among contingent workers, and is especially prevalent among human cloud workers.

Staffing Industry Analysts also found that when given one choice among various types of work arrangements, 78% of respondents to a survey for the report noted a preference for traditional rather than explicitly contingent arrangements. Even among certain types of contingent workers (such as temporary agency or human cloud workers), a majority of respondents preferred traditional roles. One exception was among the self-employed, where more than two thirds noted as their first choice either “running their own business” or “working as an independent contractor or freelancer.”

Staffing Industry Analysts’ report is based on a survey of more than 7,700 workers.

Corporate members of Staffing Industry Analysts can download the full report online.

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