MBO Partners State of Independence in America 2019

A Look Into the 9th Annual State of Independence in America Report

The 2019 MBO Partners State of Independence in America Report finds full-time independents are a persistent, confident, and tech-savvy core of the independent workforce.

The independent workforce is stronger and more confident than ever before, finds the 9th annual State of Independence in America report, the longest-running and most comprehensive look at the independent workforce.

The 41 million Americans who work as consultants, freelancers, contractors, temporary, or on-call workers—are a powerful economic force, generating $1.28 trillion of revenue for the U.S. economy last year.

Even amidst record low unemployment and the strongest jobs market in decades, independent work remains a viable and desirable career path.

“Independent work continues to be a compelling way to make a living, build valuable skills, find satisfaction, and contribute to economic security for a growing number of Americans,” said Gene Zaino, founder and CEO of MBO Partners. “America is the land of opportunity, and for more than 40 million people, that opportunity means pursuing their passions and enjoying flexibility as independents.”

More than in years past, powerful structural forces including technological advances, the emergence and growth of online talent marketplaces, and a shortage of skilled talent, are shaping the world of work.

In the 2019 study, five key trends emerged.

  • Americans declare their independence: More than half of full-time independent workers say they feel more financially secure as independents than in traditional jobs, a record high. Seven in 10 full-time independents say they plan to continue their current path.
  • The rise of the millennials: In the U.S., millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are displacing baby boomers in the independent workforce. In 2019, millennials made up 38 percent of the full-time independent workforce, up from 37 percent last year. Boomers, many of whom are aging out of the workforce, fell from 35 percent to 33 percent.
  • Independents pump the economy: Independent workers contributed $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy this year – close to the total GDP of Spain.
  • Technology helps independents do what they love: The digital revolution is here. Word of mouth remains the top way that independents find work, but nearly one in three independents say that social media and online talent marketplaces are in their top three methods.
  • Americans #Hustle: More Americans are taking up a side hustle to supplement their income, like driving for Uber or starting a passion business. In 2019, these occasional independents rose in ranks 6.3 percent to 15 million. That number is up more than 40 percent since 2016.

“This report highlights the critical role independent talent plays in today’s economy and the need to include this category of high impact talent within any organization’s workforce strategy,” said Bryan T. Peña, chief of market strategy at MBO Partners. “The data confirms that the demand for skilled independents continues to rise and we expect the numbers of high-earning independents to rise as well.”

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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