The way America’s workforce looks is changing, and New York City is already on the front lines.
By 2020, experts predict that 40 percent of the United States workforce will be independent — meaning contract workers or those who are self-employed, rather than employed full time by a company. And New York City already has the largest population of independent professionals, according to a new report.
Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelancers, worked with research firm Rockbridge Associates to look at Census Bureau data on independent workers across the country.
Out of the top 15 U.S. cities with the most specialized independent workers, New York came in the lead with a population of approximately 533,000. Los Angeles was second, with about 399,000 independent professionals.
Together, those New York City workers made more than $24 billion in projected 2017 revenue, according to the report.
The world of specialized independent workers goes beyond your Uber driver. It includes creatives, like musicians and writers, to lawyers and engineers. These workers can freelance, do contract work or become self-employed through their own businesses.
“We wanted to take a deep look into the specialized independent worker population because, frankly, it hasn’t been done before,” said Brent Messenger, Fiverr’s global head of community. “There’s been a lot of research done that looks at the general independent worker population, including those that make money from ride-sharing and home-sharing apps, but not a lot done to look into those utilizing a skill or knowledge versus an asset.”
From 2011 to 2015, these workers brought $103 billion into the New York City economy, according to this report.
“Our research shows that the specialized independent workforce — graphic designers, programmers, consultants and more — are independent because they want to be, not because they feel like they can’t get a job,” Messenger said. He attributed some of this push to millennials who saw how the Great Recession affected their parents.
This means corporations and politicians will have to make changes, both in the way businesses are run and the types of policies that protect workers regarding things like healthcare and retirement savings, Messenger said.
New York City is already leading the way: In 2017, officials here enacted the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which gives those who are self-employed legal protections around getting paid and ensuring contracts. Messenger hopes this report will help other cities catch up.