Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Entire Online Gig Economy Might Be Mostly Uber

From Real Time Economics:
One of the most-hyped changes to the U.S. labor market has been “the rise of Uber and its ilk”—companies that use smartphone apps to connect workers to gig jobs. The most prominent example of this phenomenon is, of course, Uber, the ride-hailing service that allows people to summon drivers with an app and pay by the ride. Other startups are attempting to bring this business model to a wide range of industries.

But aside from Uber, there’s mounting evidence that few companies are doing this successfully. The so-called gig economy barely registers in traditional labor-market data. As documented in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, there’s been a large growth in tenuous work arrangements. But according to new research from Alan Krueger of Princeton University and Lawrence Katz of Harvard University, the growth has taken place largely offline—in traditional jobs and industries where a growing number of workers are in contract arrangements.

As part of their new research, Messrs. Katz and Krueger conducted a large survey of workers, hunting specifically for workers on app-based online services, and found that only about 0.5% of people worked in the online gig economy during their survey’s reference week. This corresponds with a recent finding from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which studied the bank transactions of one million random bank customers to see how many were earning income from gig platforms.

Their survey found that about 1% of U.S. adults were earning income from online platforms, but the majority were earning money with sites like Airbnb and Etsy, where the primary activity is renting housing or selling products, rather than directly selling their own labor. JPMorgan calls these “capital platforms” rather than “labor platforms.” The institute found just under 0.4% of people were actually earning labor income from gig-economy services....MORE