February 2019, Eileen Appelbaum, Arne Kalleberg, and Hye Jin Rho
This paper is being co-released with the Economic Policy Institute.
Nonstandard or alternative employment relations refer to employment by a temporary help agency or contract company or as an on-call worker or day laborer. We refer to these nonstandard employment relations (which involve an employer and employee) and independent contracting collectively as nonstandard or alternative work arrangements in this report. Contingent workers are workers who do not expect their job to last or who report that their jobs are temporary. Contingent workers and workers in alternative work arrangements are measured separately. Both have become increasingly prominent in theoretical and policy thinking about how employment has changed in recent years in the United States and other post-industrial countries.
Until recently, only relatively poor information on the extent of contingent work and nonstandard work arrangements and how this has changed during the past several decades has been available. The May 2017 Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS) — conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 12 years after the last CWS and 22 years after the first — provides an opportunity to examine how contingent work and nonstandard work arrangements have changed over the last two-plus decades. This report examines these changes between 2005 and 2017, with special attention to how older workers — ages 55 to 65 and 65+ — have fared.