The Bureau of Labor Statistics count freelancers as unemployed, but many Millennials are making a living as freelancers or contract workers.
People on both sides of the political fence question labor statistics all the time, depending on the picture they present about the current employment atmosphere in the United States.
But it turns out the numbers provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are missing a key demographic – freelance and contract workers. Many of those these workers are members of the Millennials generation.
Current statistics show that one in 10 20-year-olds have given up trying to find jobs, and are neither in school or job hunting. The most recent statistics from the BLS show that labor force participation among 20-to-24-year-olds is at 70 percent, down from over 78 percent before the recession six years ago.
But those numbers do not take into consideration the estimated 42 million people of all ages who make all of their income from freelance or contract work. The BLS statistics look only at full or part-time jobs as described by the employers. The freelance or contract employees are usually marked down as unemployed by federal agencies.
The U.S. Department of Labor says that the freelance and contract work corps will grow to 65 million by the turn of the decade. Those jobs are also unusually attractive to Millennials who prefer the relaxed and flexible nature of freelance work.
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According to Fortune and CNN Money, the marketing and translation service company Lionbridge hires freelancers in the engineering and tech work departments, and those people work 30 to 40 hours a week, but often do work for several employers at once. The work is spread out, creating the feeling of multiple employers, which is attractive to Millennials who have seen their parents lose full-time jobs with one employer.
“The biggest attraction seems to be mobility,’’ said Lionbridge CEO Rory Cowan. “This generation is used to doing everything on laptops from anywhere, so why not work on a laptop too?" Such a worker can “spend half the year in Colorado skiing" without dealing with the lack of freedom traditional employers place on in-office workers. "All the assignments are project-based, so as long as you meet your deadlines, you can make your own schedule.’’ Cowan noted.
Many large companies outsource large amounts of work to freelancers or contract workers, and many Americans make a living that way. But the federal statistics list them as unemployed because they do not have one employer reporting them as employees.
According to Inuit’s 2020 report, 40 percent of American workers will be freelance or contract workers by 2020. The Freelancers Union says there are 42 million U.S. freelancers today, making up 30 percent of the labor force.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.