Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Thursday, June 7, 2018                       	USDL-18-0942

Technical information:  (202) 691-6378  *  cpsinfo@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/cps
Media contact:          (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


            CONTINGENT AND ALTERNATIVE EMPLOYMENT ARRANGEMENTS -- MAY 2017


In May 2017, 3.8 percent of workers--5.9 million persons--held contingent jobs, the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. 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 February 2005, the last time the
survey was conducted, all three measures were higher, ranging from 1.8 percent to 4.1 
percent of employment.

In addition to contingent workers, the survey also identified workers who have various
alternative work arrangements. 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.)

Contingent work and alternative employment arrangements are measured separately. Some
workers are both contingent and working in an alternative 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.

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. Data on contingent and alternative employment arrangements were collected
periodically in supplements to the CPS from February 1995 to February 2005. The May 2017
supplement was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Chief Evaluation Office. Table
A presents a summary of the three contingent worker estimates and four alternative employment
arrangements. The concepts and definitions used in the supplement are included in the
Technical Note in this news release. Also see 
www.bls.gov/cps/contingent-and-alternative-arrangements-faqs.htm for answers to
frequently asked questions.

 _________________________________________________________________________________________
|                                                                                         |
|           Note on New Questions in 2017 Contingent Worker Supplement                    |
|                                                                                         |
| 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. When available, additional information will be at                              |
| www.bls.gov/cps/electronically-mediated-employment.htm. Findings from this research     |
| will be published in a Monthly Labor Review article by September 30, 2018.              |
|_________________________________________________________________________________________|


Table A. Contingent workers and workers in alternative arrangements as a percent of total
employment, May 2017
 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|                                                                        | Percent of total
|                          Contingent workers                            |    employed     
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Contingent workers are those who do not have an implicit or explicit   |                 
| contract for ongoing employment. Persons who do not expect to continue |                 
| in their jobs for personal reasons such as retirement or returning to  |                 
| school are not considered contingent workers, provided that they would |                 
| have the option of continuing in the job were it not for these personal|                 
| reasons.                                                               |                 
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|                                                                        |                 
| Estimate 1                                                             |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Wage and salary workers who expect their jobs will last for an         |                 
| additional year or less and who had worked at their jobs for 1         |                 
| year or less. Self-employed workers and independent contractors        |                 
| are excluded from this estimate. Temporary help and contract           |                 
| workers are included in this estimate based on the expected duration   |                 
| and tenure of their employment with the temporary help or contract     |       1.3       
| firm, not with the specific client to whom they are assigned.          |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Estimate 2                                                             |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Workers, including the self-employed and independent contractors,      |                 
| who expect their employment to last for an additional year or          |                 
| less and who had worked at their jobs (or been self-employed) for      |                 
| 1 year or less. Temporary help and contract workers are included in    |                 
| this estimate based on the expected duration and tenure with the       |                 
| client to whom they are assigned, instead of their tenure with         |       1.6       
| the temporary help or contract firm.                                   |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Estimate 3                                                             |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Workers who do not expect their jobs to last. Wage and salary          |                 
| workers are included even if they already had held the job for         |                 
| more than 1 year and expect to hold the job for at least an            |                 
| additional year. The self-employed and independent contractors         |                 
| are included if they expect their employment to last for an            |                 
| additional year or less and they had been self-employed or             |       3.8       
| independent contractors for 1 year or less.                            |                 
|                                                                        |                 
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|                   Alternative employment arrangements                                    
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
| Independent contractors                                                |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Workers who are identified as independent contractors, independent     |                 
| consultants, or freelance workers, regardless of whether they are self-|       6.9       
| employed or wage and salary workers.                                   |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| On-call workers                                                        |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Workers who are called to work only as needed, although they can be    |       1.7       
| scheduled to work for several days or weeks in a row.                  |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Temporary help agency workers                                          |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Workers who are paid by a temporary help agency, whether or not their  |                 
| job is temporary.                                                      |       0.9       
|                                                                        |                 
| Workers provided by contract firms                                     |                 
|                                                                        |                 
| Workers who are employed by a company that provides them or their      |       0.6       
| services to others under contract, are usually assigned to only one    |                 
| customer, and usually work at the customer's worksite.                 |                 
 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   See the Technical Note for the concepts and key questions used to identify these workers.


Highlights from the May 2017 data:

   --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.)

Contingent Work

In May 2017, the three estimates of contingent workers ranged from 1.3 percent to 3.8 percent of employment.
(See table A and the Technical Note for an explanation of the concepts.) In February 2005, the last
time the survey was conducted, all three measures were higher, ranging from 1.8 percent to 4.1 
percent of employment. In February 1995, the first year the survey was conducted, the estimates 
ranged from 2.2 percent to 4.9 percent. The characteristics of workers in contingent jobs in May 2017 were
generally similar to those in prior surveys. 

The analysis in this news release focuses on the third and largest estimate of contingent workers--
all those who do not expect their current job to last.

Demographic Characteristics of Contingent Workers

Using the broadest estimate of contingency, 5.9 million workers were classified as contingent in May
2017. Contingent workers were more than twice as likely as noncontingent workers to be under 25 years
old (28 percent versus 12 percent). Of these young workers, 3 in 5 contingent workers were enrolled
in school, compared with fewer than 2 in 5 youth with noncontingent jobs. Contingent workers ages 25
to 64 were found at all levels of educational attainment. Contingent workers were about twice as
likely as noncontingent workers to have less than a high school diploma (14 percent, compared with
7 percent) and slightly more likely to hold at least a bachelor's degree (44 percent, compared with
41 percent). (See tables 1, 2, and 3.)

In May 2017, 47 percent of both contingent and noncontingent workers were women. In past surveys,
contingent workers were slightly more likely to be women than were noncontingent workers. In May
2017, contingent workers remained slightly less likely than noncontingent workers to be White (76
percent, compared with 79 percent) and much more likely to be Hispanic or Latino (22 percent, compared
with 16 percent). 

Contingent workers are more likely to work part time than are noncontingent workers. In May 2017,
about 2 in 5 contingent workers worked less than 35 hours per week, compared with fewer than 1 in
5 noncontingent workers. However, the vast majority of part-time workers were not employed in contingent
arrangements. 

Occupation and Industry of Contingent Workers

As in previous surveys, contingent workers were distributed throughout the major occupational groups.
In May 2017, nearly one-third of contingent workers were employed in professional and related occupations,
compared with one-fourth of noncontingent workers. Contingent workers were also more likely than their
noncontingent counterparts to work in construction and extraction occupations (11 percent and 5 percent,
respectively). Contingent workers were less likely than noncontingent workers to be employed in management,
business, and financial operations occupations (8 percent and 17 percent, respectively). (See table 4.)

By industry, about one-third of contingent workers were employed in the education and health services
industry, compared with roughly one-fourth of noncontingent workers. Contingent workers also were more
likely than noncontingent workers to be employed in the agriculture and construction industries. Contingent
workers were less likely to work in retail trade and manufacturing than were noncontingent workers. 

Job Preferences of Contingent Workers
   
Just over half of contingent workers would have preferred a permanent job in May 2017, while one-third
preferred their contingent employment arrangement. (The remainder expressed no clear preference.) The
share of contingent workers who would have preferred a permanent job was about the same as in past surveys.
(See table 10.)

Compensation of Contingent Workers
   
Contingent workers earned less than their noncontingent counterparts in May 2017. Among full-time workers,
median weekly earnings for contingent workers ($685) were 77 percent of those of noncontingent workers
($886). The disparity in earnings likely reflects the many differences in the demographic characteristics
of contingent and noncontingent workers and the jobs they hold. (See table 13.)

Contingent wage and salary workers were half as likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance
as noncontingent workers. One-fourth of contingent workers had employer-provided health insurance in May
2017, compared with half of noncontingent workers. Although most contingent workers did not receive health
insurance from their jobs, a substantial share--nearly 3 in 4--had health insurance from some source,
including coverage from another family member's policy, through a government program, or by purchasing it
on their own. Overall, contingent workers were less likely than noncontingent workers to have health
insurance coverage from any source (73 percent and 84 percent, respectively). The gap in health insurance
coverage between contingent and noncontingent workers is smaller than in 2005. (See table 9.)  

Among wage and salary workers, contingent workers were about half as likely as noncontingent workers to
be eligible for employer-provided pension or retirement plans in May 2017--23 percent of contingent
workers compared with 48 percent of noncontingent workers. Overall, the proportion of contingent workers
who actually participated in employer-provided plans (18 percent) also was much lower than that of
noncontingent workers (43 percent).

Alternative Employment Arrangements
   
The May 2017 survey collected information on the number and characteristics of workers in four alternative
employment arrangements--independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, and
workers employed by contract companies. 

Compared with February 2005 (the last time the survey was conducted), the proportion of the employed who
were independent contractors was lower in May 2017, while the proportions employed in the other three
alternative arrangements were little different. Workers in the four groups continued to differ significantly
from each other as well as from workers in traditional arrangements.

Independent Contractors
   
Independent contractors (including independent consultants and freelance workers) remained the largest
of the four alternative work arrangements. In May 2017, there were 10.6 million independent contractors,
representing 6.9 percent of total employment. This estimate is smaller than the 7.4 percent of workers
in February 2005 who were independent contractors. (See tables A and 5.)

Independent contractors are generally older than workers in other alternative and traditional arrangements.
In May 2017, more than 1 in 3 independent contractors were age 55 or older, compared with fewer than 1
in 4 workers in traditional arrangements. This reflects the fact that the likelihood of employed persons
being independent contractors increases with age. (See tables 5 and 6.)

As in past surveys, men were more likely to be independent contractors than were women; about two-thirds
of independent contractors were men in May 2017. Independent contractors also remained more likely to be
White than workers in other alternative and traditional arrangements. 

Independent contractors were more likely than those in traditional arrangements to be in management,
business, and financial operations occupations; sales and related occupations; and construction and
extraction occupations. In terms of industry, independent contractors were more likely than traditional
workers to be employed in construction and in professional and business services. (See table 8.)

Independent contractors overwhelmingly prefer their work arrangement (79 percent) to traditional jobs.
Fewer than 1 in 10 independent contractors would prefer a traditional work arrangement. (See table 11.)

Only 3 percent of independent contractors were also contingent workers in May 2017--the same percentage
as workers in traditional arrangements. (See table 12.)

On-call Workers

On-call workers are defined as those who report to work only when called, although they can be scheduled
to work for several days or weeks in a row. In May 2017, there were 2.6 million on-call workers, accounting
for 1.7 percent of total employment. The demographic characteristics of on-call workers were generally
similar to those in traditional arrangements except that on-call workers were somewhat more likely to be
age 65 or older. (See tables 5 and 6.)

About 45 percent of on-call workers worked part time, a much higher proportion than either traditional
workers or workers in other alternative arrangements. 

On-call workers were more likely than those in traditional arrangements to work in professional and related
occupations, service occupations, construction and extraction occupations, and transportation and material
moving occupations. By industry, on-call workers were more likely to work in education and health services
and in construction. (See table 8.)

In May 2017, 43 percent of on-call workers would have preferred to work in a traditional arrangement,
about the same percentage as preferred their alternative arrangement. Roughly 1 in 5 on-call workers was
also a contingent worker. (See tables 11 and 12.)

Temporary Help Agency Workers
   
In May 2017, 1.4 million workers were paid by a temporary help agency, about 0.9 percent of total
employment. As in earlier surveys, they were much more likely than workers in traditional arrangements
to be Black or Hispanic or Latino. Temporary help agency workers ages 25 to 64 were less likely than
traditional workers or workers in other arrangements to have attended college--about half of temporary
help agency workers had completed at least one year of college, compared with roughly two-thirds of those
in other alternative or traditional arrangements. About 1 in 4 temporary help agency workers had a part-time
schedule--a slightly higher proportion than for traditional workers. (See tables 5, 6, and 7.)

Temporary help agency workers were heavily concentrated in the production, transportation, and material
moving occupations and in manufacturing industries. In May 2017, 46 percent of temporary help agency workers
would have preferred a traditional job, less than the 56 percent in February 2005. In May 2017, 42 percent
of temporary help agency workers were also contingent workers, a smaller share than in past surveys. (See
tables 8, 11, and 12.)

Workers Provided by Contract Firms
   
The smallest of the four alternative arrangements was contract company employment, with 933,000 workers
or 0.6 percent of total employment in May 2017. These individuals work for companies that provide workers
or their services to other organizations under contract; they usually are assigned to one client at a
time and work at the client's place of business. Two-thirds of contract company workers were men, compared
with about half of traditional workers. Workers provided by contract firms were more likely to be Asian
than were traditional workers or workers in other arrangements. (See tables 5 and 6.)

In May 2017, more than one-third of contract company workers were in professional and related occupations
and one-fourth were in service occupations. Computer professionals and security guards are common occupations
for workers provided by contract firms. By industry, contract company workers were much more likely to
be employed in public administration than those in other alternative or traditional arrangements. Fifteen
percent of contract company workers were also contingent workers. (See tables 8 and 12.)

Compensation of Workers in Alternative Employment Arrangements

Among full-time workers, there was wide variation in the median earnings of those in alternative employment
arrangements relative to one another and to workers in a traditional arrangement. In May 2017, median
weekly earnings were highest for contract company workers ($1,077). Earnings for independent contractors
($851) were roughly similar to those for workers in traditional arrangements ($884), while earnings for
on-call workers ($797) and temporary help agency workers ($521) were lower. (See table 13.)

Differences in earnings for workers in the four alternative arrangements reflect, in part, variations in
the occupational distributions and the demographic characteristics of the workers. For example, contract
company workers are concentrated in professional and related occupations, which tend to be more highly
paid. On the other hand, temporary help agency workers are less likely to have attended college and are
concentrated in lower-paying production, transportation, and material moving occupations. 

Workers in alternative arrangements remained less likely than workers in traditional arrangements to have
employer-provided health insurance. In May 2017, 41 percent of contract company workers had employer-provided
health insurance, compared with 28 percent of on-call workers and 13 percent of temporary help agency workers.
In contrast, 53 percent of workers in traditional arrangements received health insurance benefits through
their employers. (Estimates of employer-provided health insurance were not tabulated for independent
contractors.) (See table 9.)

Although most workers in alternative arrangements did not receive health insurance through
their jobs, a large share had health insurance from some source, including coverage from another family
member's policy, through a government program, or by purchasing it on their own. Compared with workers in
traditional arrangements (84 percent) and those employed by contract companies (85 percent), workers in
the other alternative employment arrangements were less likely to be covered by health insurance from any
source. In particular, temporary help agency workers were the least likely to have health insurance from
any source (67 percent). The likelihood of having health insurance was higher for workers in all categories
in May 2017 than in February 2005, with the largest increase among temporary help agency workers.
 
Eligibility for employer-provided pension or retirement plans varies across employment arrangements. 
In May 2017, temporary help agency workers (13 percent) and on-call workers (35 percent) were less likely to
be eligible for employer-provided plans than were contract company workers (48 percent) or those in traditional
arrangements (51 percent). Overall, the proportions of workers in alternative arrangements who actually
participated in employer-provided plans were lower than for those in traditional arrangements. (These data
were not collected for independent contractors.) 



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Last Modified Date: June 07, 2018