Blen Gebrehiwot is a senior at St. Lawrence University majoring in Economics and Business in the liberal arts. Blen is from Alexandria, VA and came to St. Lawrence University because of the strong academics and accessibility to the outdoors.
Technological advancements, in particular the widespread use of sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft, have prompted the rise of the gig economy, which is a labor market characterized by short-term (flexible) employment for people who are unemployed or need more than one occupation. This paper explores how the rise of the gig economy affects workers' livelihoods and the evolvement of the U.S. labor market. As the profession has not reached a consensus on the exact classification of gig workers, this paper seeks to provide an in-depth analysis of the two growing segments of freelancers and shared economy workers that saw a significant increase during the COVID19 pandemic. After combining company-specific data from Statista with country-level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our results show that the growth rate of gig workers has been significantly higher than the growth rate of the overall U.S. employment. It is noteworthy that while the size of the U.S. labor force was shrinking, the number of freelancers and shared economy workers saw an increase during the COVID-19 period. To further discuss the development of the gig economy in the U.S., this paper also presents income and demographic aspects of gig workers. We conclude that the gig economy has become an increasingly important part of the U.S. labor market; especially for those who have been struggling during economic downturns. Lastly, our findings provide clues on the potential direction of the U.S. labor market in the short and long term.