The US jobs report excludes a huge part of the economy, even when the number of new payrolls trumps expectations.
It’s the so-called gig economy, made up of workers who earn money by completing jobs on-demand by themselves or with companies like Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit.
MBO Partners, a company that provides enterprise software to the firms that employ independent workers, estimated that there were nearly 40 million independent workers over the age 20 in 2015.
But many of the new workers are missed when the Bureau of Labour Statistics is conducting its monthly survey of businesses for the jobs report.
“We’re in this fascinating time when the definition of work is rapidly changing,” said Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter, an online job listings service.
“Their methodology hasn’t caught up with the reality of the world.”
The BLS noted in a recent explainer that its tally of workers likely reflects a lot of gig work. Some of them may be counted as being part-time, self-employed, or with multiple jobs, but not all in these three categories are independent workers.
The bureau has been counting such workers since 1995, long before companies like Lyft and Uber existed. But because of a funding shortfall, it has not been able to conduct a survey on them since 2005.
It plans to do a one-time count in May 2017 if Congress approves funding.
The BLS puts these kinds of workers into two categories: contingent workers, or people who don’t have long-term employment contracts, and alternative employment arrangements, which include freelancers and temp workers.