How Big is the Gig Economy in the U.S.?

There have been many articles written about the transformation of our hardcopy industry. But how about the ongoing transformation of traditional jobs that are becoming, in effect, freelance ‘gigs.’ Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber are companies that have created online marketplaces to transform jobs like working in hotels or driving taxis, into independent work.

The gig economy is bigger than many of us think and it is growing rapidly according to a Brookings Institution report. The gig economy firms are defined as a sole proprietor, self-employed company that makes at least $1,000/year in gross revenue and not employing anyone else. Historically, there were 16 million (M) of these “firms” in 1997 and by 2014 it increased to 24M, a 60 percent increase. This compares to a 12 percent increase in payroll jobs in the same timeframe.

This growth is mainly concentrated in large metropolitan areas like Austin, San Francisco, Portland, New Orleans, San Jose, etc.; however, it has spread to Nashville, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Columbus, and Indianapolis. All of these cities have had 60 percent growth in gig economy firms for taxi driving and room-sharing. Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber have the ability to take underutilized capacity in cars and rooms and put it to work.

There are other companies that take underutilized capacity and put it to work, such as MakeTime to increase productivity in the CNC industry. Could the same concepts of the gig economy be used in the hardcopy industry?

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