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Innovation and the Contingent Workforce

Filed in Data, Future of Work, Secretary Perez By on January 25, 2016

woman holding a smart phone

I’m traveling to Silicon Valley this week to talk with high-tech industry leaders, workers, venture capitalists, labor leaders and community leaders about the future of work in America. I’ll be talking to people about having a voice at work, whether the workplace is virtual, traditional or somewhere in between. I’ll be talking to companies about their paid leave policies. And I’ll be talking to workers, public officials, workforce development experts and companies about the role apprenticeship can play in training a first-class workforce and helping people launch middle-class careers.

Silicon Valley is a huge economic driver, and the innovation happening there is creating both opportunities and challenges. We see it not just in new technologies and business models, but in creative approaches to worker advocacy. A few weeks ago, President Obama charged us in the State of the Union to think about how to foster innovation and growth, to rekindle the spirit of creativity in the private sector that has defined our nation’s success throughout our history – and to do so in a way that builds an economy that works for everyone.

I believe we have a responsibility to ask: How do we create inclusive innovation and opportunities for everyone, building off the creativity and entrepreneurship that you find woven into the DNA of Silicon Valley?

Thanks in large measure to innovation in recent decades there, the American workforce – and the very nature of work – is experiencing some profound changes. It’s not just the growth of new technologies, but also the rise of entirely new industries and new job structures. For example, we’re seeing the tech-driven expansion of the gig or on-demand economy.

This is an exciting, entrepreneurial development that is tapping into powerful consumer demand while giving workers flexibility and enabling them to monetize existing assets, like their cars or extra rooms in their homes. At the same time, the on-demand economy raises important questions about how to continue upholding time-honored labor standards and how to promote economic security for American workers in a changing labor market.

It’s important that my team and I understand these trends so we can make good decisions going forward. We can only do that if we’re hearing the experiences of people on the leading edge of all this dynamic activity, so I’m looking forward to all of the conversations I’ll be having out there this week.

Also, understanding emerging trends is only possible if we can systematically measure them, something that’s never far from our minds at the Labor Department. And the need for more data was a common refrain at our Future of Work symposium last month, where we hosted a special session with leading academics, economists and statistical agency experts on exactly that topic.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that our Bureau of Labor Statistics is working with the Census Bureau to rerun the Contingent Worker Supplement to the Current Population Survey. It will give us reliable, credible insight into what’s going on across a range of work arrangements – from independent contractors to temporary employees to workers holding multiple jobs at the same time.

They’ll be gathering this information as part of the May 2017 Current Population Survey, and the information we get from this survey will help the department do something that’s essential to smart policymaking and smart business: understanding the past and the present so that we can prepare for the future.

Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter and Instagram as @LaborSec. 

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Comments (4)

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  1. Andrew Reamer says:

    I’ve very pleased to read Secretary Perez’s announcement about the revival of the Contingent Worker Supplement of the CPS in 2017. Blog readers may be interested to know that a Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Supplement was last conducted in February 2005 and released that summer:

  2. RaLo Carson says:

    Maybe the BLS should actually REPORT the number of people that are unemployed in this country!! Maybe the BLS should use better data mining practices. The amount of people who remain uncounted is a national CRISIS. Counting people 2, 3, and 4 or more times is misleading at best, and extremely egregious behavior. Saying people are employed, when you know for certain they are not is preposterous. Counting someone as employed who is working for their family even though they are not getting paid, is utterly a lie. Counting someone as working who helped their neighbor shovel snow and got $20, is NOT a person who is working. Policy is being made using your data. Your data is false, therefore the policy is false. There are people over 45 who are left out of the workforce every day, and because they are not counted, the political machine, the media and the public is lulled into believing there is not a crisis. I have no faith in your entity. I have studied your methods of data mining and they are FALSE. There are MILLIONS of us out here. but the BLS has chosen to ignore us.

    Maybe when you visit you should ask how many people they have in their employ who are over 45, over 50, etc. Maybe you should ask them why they need to hire H1B Visa workers when so many qualified US citizens are unemployed, or underemployed. And while you’re at it, maybe you should STOP counting those Visa workers as US Jobs. J1, H1 H2, etc. are not employed US citizens.

  3. robert wilson says:

    My opinion is that even with the insight you guys have, ability to forecast with accuracy, knowing the situation related to skills and labor shortage in the tech / IT arena, could have been avoided Further, to waste tax payers money as you have at the same time, is shameful, Yes, shame on you USDOL!

    Shame on you USDOL for not holding CompTIA accountable related to the last Grant issued to ‘501c3’ (a joke!) the public is aware of. After essentially providing $2.8M in cash, funding the final leg of the dev. of NITAS just turn your back, allow CompTIA not only to NOT match as required er the grant (what 3.MMM$$$), the investing into the program coupled with the five run branding the program, establishing quotas of sponsors and apprentices; IT apprenticeship.

    As a reminder, this all began, around 1988, initial grants, ‘the five year’ research studies, the multiple grants, the multiple grants awarded to CompTIA especially, the politics, the empty promises and the scrubbing if the internet.

    Pathetic behavior of lies, manipulation, etc.

    R. Wilson

  4. Alicia says:

    It would be helpful if you also talk to them about the importance of responding to the different surveys and survey participation. The Bay Area has some of the lowest response rates in the country, and this will help immensely!