Gig economy: Contract work on the rise.

The predictions were dire. The economy was tanking in 2008 and struggling in the months and years that followed, and word was, traditional jobs were on the way out. Employers and laid off workers alike were turning to staffing agencies for short-term solutions to their needs. Employers needed folks to get the job done, but the unsteady economy made them reluctant to invest in a long-term hire. And laid off workers needed income, even if it came without benefits. The fear was that it would become the new way of life for American workers. Employment in the future would be different. There would be no careers of 40-hour weeks and a benefits package. Although those fears have not played out yet, a study published in 2016 by financial software company Intuit predicts that 40% of American workers would be independent contractors by 2020. That's not necessarily something to fear, though, says Clemson University assistant professor of economics Aspen Gorry, because although many people seek temporary work as a stepping stone to full-time employment, others choose to be part of the gig economy for their own reasons. In fact, it already comprises 34% of the economy. There is a shift to a larger number of workers being self-employed or somehow having a nonstandard work arrangement, Gorry said, but that doesn't mean they can't find traditional full-time employment. In fact, some of them do. The Labor Department doesn't distinguish among someone who is self-employed as a full-time plumber, for example, and someone who may drive for Uber after knocking off work for the day, and someone working for a temporary staffing agency until something else comes along. Or, for that matter, someone who enjoys working for staffing agencies because an occasional change of scenery is desirable. All are part of the gig economy, but some are making a living at it and others are simply picking up some extra money. Some people may choose to give up the relative security of a traditional job for the flexibility and freedom of contract work. We know gig work is growing but we don't know to what extent it's extra or a sole income job, Gorry said. That's the hard thing to get at in...

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