The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on contingent and alternative employment arrangements, a supplement to the Current Population Survey. Highlights provide contingent work estimates; demographic characteristics, and occupation and industry of contingent workers, independent contractors, and on-call workers; job preferences and compensation; and data related to four alternative employment arrangements. New questions about jobs found through mobile apps or websites were added to it.

Table A of the Current Population Survey (CPS) presents a summary of the types of contingent workers in alternative employment arrangements. Highlights. in the May 2017 CPS supplement, indicate that 3.8 percent of workers—5.9 million persons—held contingent jobs, according to a June 2018 news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These contingent workers are persons who do not expect their jobs to last or who report that their jobs are temporary. Using three different measures, contingent workers accounted for 1.3 percent to 3.8 percent of total employment in May 2017. (See tables A and 1.)

In addition to defining estimates for contingent workers, the survey also describes various alternative work arrangements, such as independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, and workers provided by contract firms. Contingent work and alternative employment arrangements are measured separately. Some workers are both contingent and participate an alternative employment arrangement, but this is not automatically the case. The measures of contingent work and alternative employment arrangements apply only to a person's sole or main job. For individuals with more than one job, this is the job in which they usually work the most hours.

In May 2017, there were 10.6 million independent contractors (6.9 percent of total employment), 2.6 million on-call workers (1.7 percent of total employment), 1.4 million temporary help agency workers (0.9 percent of total employment), and 933,000 workers provided by contract firms (0.6 percent of total employment). (See tables A and 5.) Four new questions were added to the May 2017 Contingent Worker Supplement. These questions were designed to identify individuals who found short tasks or jobs through a mobile app or website and were paid through the same app or website. BLS continues to evaluate the data from these new questions; the data do not appear in this news release. Also, see the frequently asked questions page for more information about these data at Frequently asked questions about data on contingent and alternative employment arrangements.

Major Findings & Recommendations

This information was obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that provides data on employment and unemployment in the United States. The May 2017 supplement was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor Chief Evaluation Office.

Finding and recommendations are visually displayed in the report and showcase the following:

  • Summary of the three contingent worker estimates and four alternative employment arrangements. (see table A.)
  • Under the broadest measure of contingency, there were 5.9 million contingent workers; these workers who did not expect their jobs to last accounted for 3.8 percent of total employment. (See table 1.)
  • Contingent workers were more than twice as likely as noncontingent workers to be under age 25. They were also more than twice as likely as noncontingent workers to work part-time. (See table 2.)
  • Young contingent workers (16- to 24-year-olds) were much more likely than their noncontingent counterparts to be enrolled in school (62 percent and 36 percent, respectively). (See table 3.)
  • Contingent workers were more likely to work in professional and related occupations and in construction and extraction occupations than noncontingent workers. (See table 4.)
  • More than half of contingent workers (55 percent) would have preferred a permanent job. (See table 10.)
  • In terms of alternative employment arrangements, 6.9 percent of all workers were independent contractors, 1.7 percent were on-call workers, 0.9 percent were temporary help agency workers, and 0.6 percent were workers provided by contract firms. (See table A.)
  • The demographic characteristics of workers in alternative employment arrangements varied between the four arrangements. Compared to workers in traditional arrangements, independent contractors were more likely to be older, temporary help agency workers were more likely to be Black or Hispanic or Latino, and workers provided by contract companies were more likely to be men. (See table 6.)
  • While 79 percent of independent contractors preferred their arrangement over a traditional job, only 44 percent of on-call workers and 39 percent of temporary help agency workers preferred their work arrangement. (See table 11.)
  • The proportion of workers employed in alternative arrangements who also were classified as contingent workers ranged from 3 percent of independent contractors to 42 percent of temporary help agency workers. (See table 12.)