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November 1998, Vol. 121, No. 11
Sharon R. Cohany
In February 1997, information on workers in four alternative employment arrangements was obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS). This marked the second time such information was collected through the CPS; the first was 2 years earlier. In general, the proportion of total employment accounted for by each arrangement, as well as the characteristics of the workers, was little changed since the previous survey in February 1995.1
The second survey confirmed that the characteristics of workers differed significantly between the arrangements as well as within them. People employed in two of these arrangements, temporary help agency workers and contract company workers, are employees of one company and carry out assignments for another. Workers who are on call do not have an established schedule for reporting to work. And workers in the largest group, independent contractors, are not employees in the traditional sense, but rather work for themselves.
About 12.6 million people, or 1 in 10 workers, were classified into one of these four alternative employment arrangements in February 1997, the same proportion as in the February 1995 survey. The proportions accounted for by each arrangement are shown in exhibit 1 and table 1. By far the largest arrangement was independent contractors, with 8.5 million, followed by on-call workers (2 million), temporary help agency workers (1.3 million), and contract company employees (800,000). The number of workers in all of these arrangements combined increased by 3 percent (400,000 people) over the 2-year period, about the same rate of growth as employment overall.
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1 Data from the February 1997 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) were initially published as news release USDL 97422, "Contingent and alternative employment arrangements, February 1997," issued Dec. 2, 1997. The CPS, conducted for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Bureau of the Census, is a monthly survey of some 50,000 households that is the primary source of information on the labor force. All employed persons, except unpaid family workers, were eligible for inclusion in the February supplement. The current article updates two that appeared in the October 1996 Monthly Labor Review: "Workers in alternative employment arrangements," by Sharon R. Cohany, pp. 3145; and "Earnings and benefits of workers in alternative work arrangements," by Steven Hipple and Jay Stewart, pp. 4654.
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