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BLS Contingent Worker Supplement

What is it measuring?

The Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS) estimates the number of American workers in contingent and alternative arrangements as their main job in the past week. Contingent arrangements are short-term or temporary jobs. Alternative arrangements are particular types of relationships between workers and the individual or company who pays them: independent contractors, temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, and workers provided by contract firms. It also gathers information on demographics, industry, access to benefits, and preference for contingent and alternative work.

In 2017, respondents were asked if they used online platforms to arrange jobs or tasks, either online or offline.

What does it tell us?

In 2017, 10.1 percent of the workforce was engaged in alternative arrangements. 3.8 percent was engaged in contingent arrangements. There was slight overlap between the two categories.

About 1 percent of the workforce used apps to arrange work. 

In 2005, 10.7 percent of the workforce was engaged in an alternative work arrangement as their main job in the past week. 4.1 percent of the workforce was engaged in a contingent work arrangement. There was some overlap between the two categories, totaling just over 1 percent of the workforce.

How is it collected?

The CWS is a supplement to the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) by the Census Bureau for BLS. The CPS in collected via telephone and in person among all non-institutionalized persons age 16 and over. About 60,000 households are sampled each month. The supplement was administered to a sample of respondents who reported working for pay in the past week.

Who collects it?

The CWS is administered by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Considerations

The CWS is one of the most rigorous studies of alternative work. However, it only asks about workers' main jobs—the job for which they worked the most hours—meaning it leaves out any supplemental or occasional work.

How to access this data?

Summary tables from 2017 are available here. Microdata are available here

Reports

Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements - May 2017; 2018; Bureau of Labor Statistics; US Department of Labor;