The Gig Economy Is Basically a Myth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics used to perform a contingent worker survey every couple of years, but they stopped doing it after 2005. Last year they started up again, which gives us a look at how the gig economy has grown since then. The closest category they have to “gig worker” is people who are on call for sporadic work, which looks like this:

In a nutshell, nothing has changed. Uber drivers might get notified of work via an app instead of a phone call, but that’s about it.

The BLS has several other definitions of contingent workers, but they don’t make any difference. No matter how you define it, contingent work hasn’t changed much since 2005:

Any way you slice it, the gig economy just isn’t a thing: it’s not large and it’s not growing. In fact, since Uber accounted for half these jobs in 2017 but none of them in 2005, it’s very likely that the non-Uber gig market has declined considerably over the past decade. The vast, vast majority of people want steady work, the same as they always have.


We recently wrapped up the crowdfunding campaign for our ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project, and it was a smashing success. About 10,364 readers pitched in with donations averaging $45, and together they contributed about $467,374 toward our $500,000 goal.

That's amazing. We still have donations from letters we sent in the mail coming back to us, so we're on pace to hit—if not exceed—that goal. Thank you so much. We'll keep you posted here as the project ramps up, and you can join the hundreds of readers who have alerted us to corruption to dig into.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.