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U.S. Independent Workforce Remains Strong, According to MBO Partners’ 8th Annual State of Independence Report

The independent workforce is strong, mature and evolving amidst the overall U.S. economy’s solid growth, according to MBO Partners, the nation’s largest provider of business services and tools to the self-employed and companies who engage them. The company today released its 2018 State of Independence in America Report, the country’s longest-running end-to-end study of the American independent workforce.

Despite record-low unemployment rates, the 2018 report finds that the total number independent workers has risen 2.2 percent to 41.8 million, up from 40.9 million in 2017. Between January 2011 and January 2018, the U.S. economy added 17 million payroll jobs, but in that same period, the number American’s choosing independent work has remained relatively flat.

“These stats indicate that independent work and traditional jobs are not engaged in a zero-sum fight, but rather, growing in unison,” said Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. “People from all industries choose to become independent professionals, and the key word here is ‘choose.’”

MBO’s eighth annual report, the longest running of its kind, found that nearly two in three full-time independent workers say that it’s their choice entirely to work independently, compared to half of full-time independent workers in 2014. And they’re happy with their choice: 79 percent of all full-time independents report that they are happier working on their own than in a traditional job, and 68 percent said working on their own is better for their health.

With each passing year, independents account for a larger amount of U.S. economic activity. In 2017, independent workers generated roughly $1.3 trillion of revenue for the U.S. economy, equal to about 6.7 percent of U.S. GDP. One in five full-time independents—3.3 million people—are “high-earning independents” who make more than $100,000.

Three key trends emerged from this year’s study:

  • High-earning independent workers ($100K+) now number 3.3 million. The improving economy is leading to more work and pricing power for highly skilled independents, especially for in-demand industries which include IT, marketing and biotech/pharma. This is leading to the same bifurcation of earnings that’s occurring across the economy—workers with in-demand skills are experiencing increasing wages, while the wages of the less skilled are stagnating.
  • Independent workers don’t fear automation taking their jobs. Asked to look ten years down the road and assess how much of the work they currently do will be done by robots, machines or other types of automation technology, 55 percent of full-time independents say it would affect “none of the work I do,” compared with 44 percent of traditional employees. Additionally, independents are more likely than traditional workers to say that automation technology would improve work/life balance. Two in three independents do not worry about losing their job to automation technology, compared with 53 percent of traditional workers.
  • More people are side-giggers to supplement stagnant wages. In 2018, the number of side-giggers, or occasional independents, jumped 9.3 percent to 14.9 million from 12.9 million in 2017; their ranks have risen 34 percent from 10.5 million in 2016. On the whole, despite low unemployment, median wages aren’t rising that much–average hourly earnings rose just 2.6 percent between May 2017 and May 2018. Side-giggers are people who may take on part-time or occasional work or gigs, from driving Uber to picking up a social media marketing project to supplement income, start a passion business, test the prospect of going independent with part-time work, or simply try to develop some new skills.

“For the eighth year running, our research shows that engaging the independent workforce is increasingly an integral part of doing business, especially for large enterprises,” said Zaino. “As the demand for skilled independents continues to rise, we can expect the numbers of high-earning independents to keep growing as well.”

For more information or to obtain a copy of the 8th annual State of Independence report, please visit https://www.mbopartners.com/state-of-independence.

About MBO Partners

MBO Partners has the industry’s only complete business operating system for independent workers, offering technology solutions that make it easy for self-employed professionals and their clients to do business. By re-envisioning and streamlining the entire contract talent acquisition and engagement lifecycle, MBO improves how independents operate and succeed while helping enterprises reduce risk and get the best return on their contractor investments. To learn more, visit www.mbopartners.com.

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