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How big is the “gig economy” here in Massachusetts?

By Frank Conte

It is difficult to estimate just how many “gig” workers there are in Massachusetts. The problem rests with the issue of classification — which also is a challenge for national estimates (see my main story).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Contingent workers are people who do not expect their jobs to last, or who reported that their jobs are temporary. They do not have an implicit or explicit contract for continuing employment.” These include on-call workers and workers assigned by temp agencies and others.

The BLS does not tabulate data at the state level. Instead, it combines its estimates into regional divisions, such as for New England.

According to the BLS, there were 107,000 contingent workers in New England in May 2017. The total nonfarm work population for New England for the same period was 7.5 million. Doing division yields a 1.14 percent total of New England contingent workers. Then, by multiplying this percentage by the Bay State’s total non-farm employment indicates that approximately 51,000 workers may be contingent in Massachusetts, assuming our state tracks what happens throughout the region.

Whether Massachusetts actually has proportionately more “gig” workers than other states is difficult to determine. That said, it’s possible the Bay State does have more because it’s more urban than, say, Vermont or Maine.

Of course, all these figures are based on BLS statistics; other organizations provide a considerably different picture of the size of the “gig economy” in Massachusetts.

New England Total NonFarm Employment, 000s,
(May 2017)
Estimate of Contingent Workers (000)
Connecticut 1679 24
Maine 622 9
Massachusetts 3596 51
New Hampshire 673 10
Rhode Island 493 7
Vermont 313 4
Total New England 7376 107

Source: BLS, Author’s Calculations. Numbers may not add due to rounding.

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