7 Years of Insight on the Growth of the Independent Workforce.
The 2017 MBO Partners State of Independence In America paints a positive picture of the independent workforce continuing to grow and mature. Independents, a 41 million strong cohort who now represent about 31 percent of the private U.S. workforce, are distributed across every demographic, age, gender, skill and income group.
“The State of Independence report, the only of its kind with seven years of trending data, shows definitively that independent work is the way of the future,” said Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. “Even against a strong economy, independents, particularly in skilled labor markets, choose this path over traditional employment. Sixty-five percent of all Independents say that independent work was their choice entirely, and this number will continue to rise as organizations compete in a war for top talent in highly competitive fields such as engineering and computer science.”
In the 2017 study, three key trends emerged, each of which mirrors a significant trend in the overall economy.
First, a strong job market means that independents are increasingly able to compete in the War for Talent on their own terms. This strong job market means independents seeking clients have an easier time than ever finding work as jobs open and companies experience a talent shortage. In 2017, for the sixth year in a row, the number of high-earning independents rose. Now, 3.2 million Full-Time Independents make more than $100,000 annually, up 4.9 percent from 2016. This population now represents nearly one in five Full Time Independents.
Second, while full time independent work is broadly appealing, it’s not for everyone. A portion of the independent workforce has always been characterized as “reluctant”—people who work independently but would prefer a traditional job yet can’t find one that is better than their independent work option. In 2017, thanks to the strong jobs market, the proportion of Reluctant Independents fell to 24 percent, the lowest in all seven years of the study.
Third, more Americans are turning to part-time or occasional independent work to supplement their income. Fueled in part by the growth of the widening array of online platforms, the number of people working as Occasional Independents (those working irregularly or sporadically as independents but at least once per month) soared 23 percent to 12.9 million, up from 10.5 million in 2016.
“While we continue to see differences in attitudes between the different groups of independent workers, the population generally reports that independent work—and the independent lifestyle—is a satisfying way of building income and obtaining greater freedom, control and purpose,” said Zaino. “The very structure of work in America is evolving, and the demand for skilled independents will only increase as companies look to become more agile and flexible in the future.”
This year’s study underscores that independence will remain a viable and desired option for workers in the years to come.
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