Most Independent Contractors Happy With Their Arrangement, but Temps Are Not, Survey Finds

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 14, 2018

About eight in 10 independent contractors prefer their work arrangement over a more traditional job arrangement. By contrast, only about four in 10 temporary help agency workers and on-call workers prefer their work arrangement, according to a new survey from the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Although it is not possible to draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship, certain characteristics may account for these workers' different levels of satisfaction:

  • Independent contractors earn a median of $851 per week, more than on-call workers ($797) and temps ($521);
  • Independent contractors occupy management and professional occupations at a higher rate (43%) than on-call workers (36%) and temps (22%); and
  • Independent contractors hold a bachelor's degree or higher at a greater rate (39%) than on-call workers (34%) and temps (27%).

The survey found that about one in 10 Americans workers fall under one of the following alternative work arrangements:

  • 10.6 million independent contractors (6.9% of total employment);
  • 2.6 million on-call workers (1.7% of total employment);
  • 1.4 million temporary help agency workers (0.9% of total employment); and
  • 933,000 workers provided by contract firms (0.6% of total employment).

Compared with the last BLS survey in 2005, the proportion of workers employed as independent contractors decreased slightly, while the proportions employed in the other three alternative arrangements were little different.

Interestingly, the survey also revealed a slight decline in the number of contingent workers - persons who do not expect their jobs to last or who report that their jobs are temporary - since 2005. But the government's findings did not include individuals who perform so-called "gig" work on the side in addition to traditional jobs.

Contingent work and alternative employment arrangements are measured separately, according to the BLS. Some workers are both contingent and working in an alternative arrangement, but this is not automatically the case.

Many businesses prefer the flexibility of alternative work arrangements, which can help reduce labor costs. However, they also carry risks such as misclassification, joint employment liability, working time violations and more.