40 percent of Americans are not working full-time, 9-5 jobs. Whether part-time, hourly, or self-employed, the independent workforce (or gig economy, as it’s often called) is growing faster than the entire workforce. One economist studying this trend found that up to 85 percent of all jobs created from 2005 to 2013 were “alternative” or nontraditional. One could say that the independent workforce shows signs of potentially becoming the workforce.
But, who are these workers and what jobs do they perform? In recent months, focus has been fixated on the on-demand economy as the poster child of independent workers, their growth and financial vulnerability. When looking at recent statistics, the on-demand economy (comprising contractors like Uber drivers, Taskers, Upwork freelancers, and Instacart delivery drivers) only accounts for less than 10 percent of the total 30 million people working as independent contractors.
There's a lot of income diversity among contractors. One common criticism of the 1099 workforce is how little contractors earn in comparison to W-2 workers -- but this claim doesn't hold true for the entire worker class. Dentists, accountants, even farmers and ranchers earn well above the median American annual household income of $51,939. While grounds maintenance workers earn well below at $23,970 and housekeepers' median salaries amount to $19,570 annually.
Many common independent professions have strong union representation. Many of the top independent jobs also have a history of strong unions representing them. Close to 20 percent of construction workers belong to a union. Transportation professionals also have strong membership, with over 16 percent joining unions.
Infographic: Is Independent Work the New Normal?
Top 20 Independent Contractor Occupations
Ranked according to estimated number of self-employed professionals.
Full Independent Contractor Index
Want to see more than the top 20 occupations? We've calculated the approximate number of self-employed workers for over 110 different professions. See the full list here in GoogleSheets.
To calculate this index, we analyzed the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for industry- and occupation-level information for self-employment and overall number of professionals. We multiplied the total number of people in each occupation by the percentage of self-employed workers reported.