The gig economy

One of the latest terms being used to describe economics and business is the “gig” economy. Is that anything like booking bands for performances? NC State University economist Mike Walden answers.

“It really is. A gig, in economics lingo, is a temporary job. So the concern is that we are moving toward an economy where people don’t have permanent jobs, where they have an employer, where they go to work 8 to 5, whatever. They know they are going to get a paycheck. Instead, the people are going to have to cobble together a lot of temporary jobs. And that’s going to make it very hard for them to plan, to make it hard for them to get benefits, etc.

“So that is the concern, and indeed if you look during the recession, temporary employment did go up. Now the question is whether that was a permanent trend or a temporary trend, and right now we are thinking it was a temporary trend because all those indicators of people working part time — that is, the percent of people who are working part time, percent of people who are self-employed, percent of people in temporary jobs — all those numbers have actually been going down, meaning that more and more permanent employment has come back as the economy has improved.

“So I think a lot of publicity that we are hearing about temporary jobs is around certain kinds of industry like cyber-taxi services. We don’t see this as a big trend extensively in the economy. Although, of course, things can change. But right now we don’t think a ‘gig’ economy is taking over.”