For years, various reports have indicated that the contract workforce is growing rapidly in the U.S.
On Thursday, the Labor Department poured a bucket of cold water on that notion. It released a report showing contract workers make up a slightly smaller share of the workforce than the last time the survey was done 13 years ago.
It said that last year, 10.1 percent of the workforce was independent contractors — down from 10.7 percent in 2005, the last time it conducted the survey.
That represents about 15.5 million people in 2017, compared with 14.8 million in 2005, when the overall U.S. workforce was smaller.
Those figures appear to go against other surveys showing huge growth in contract work, which is transforming the U.S. labor market. A survey conducted in December by NPR/Marist found that contract work makes up 20 percent or more of the U.S. workforce.
Why the seemingly large discrepancy?
Many point to the government’s methodology. The Labor Department, for example, did not include people who augment their income through contract work, or who did not work within the week the survey was conducted. That would not include many of the people who work for online platforms such as Uber, TaskRabbit, or food delivery apps, for example. It also excludes those who might have another primary job.
Based on other surveys and estimates, including those workers would roughly double the size of the estimated contract workforce.
Another reason the numbers look lower than expected is that today’s job market is far stronger than in 2005, when the Labor Department last conducted its survey.
Sam Katzen, a spokesperson for Fiverr, a marketplace for freelancers to find work said the numbers are misleading. The report “doesn’t really represent how work has changed since this report last came out,” he said.
Read the full story at 1 In 10 Workers Is An Independent Contractor, Labor Department Says : NPR