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New Employment In L.A. Is Increasingly 'Gig Based,' Probably Lacks Healthcare, Per Report

A gig economy worker, driving for Uber. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)
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Out west, we like our jobs like we like our people; barely consistent, liable to disappear at any moment, and shockingly free from benefits. Or so says a new report from Brookings that underscores just how how prevalent 'nonemployer' jobs have become in California cities like Los Angeles.

The report, titled "Tracking the gig economy: New numbers", uses data derived from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey to chart the growth of "platform-based" freelance jobs around the country. "Platform-based" is fancy lingo for a job that functions chiefly by connecting customers and service-providers (legally not "employees") through an app or website. People working as an Uber or Lyft driver, a Postmates delivery-person, or a Task Rabbit doer, are all examples of people who work as platform-based freelancers.

According to the report, which analyzed a three-year period from 2012 through 2014, non-employer "gig" jobs are up 136 percent in the Los Angeles metropolitan area (which includes Long Beach, and Orange County). During the same period, more traditional payroll based positions increased 12.9 percent. Nationally, independent contracting work rose 48 percent, while payroll work increased 6.4 percent.

While Los Angeles has always had the reputation as a sort-of "gig" city, where people float from job to job without ever really mooring themselves to a single long-term employer, the radical increase of independent contractor positions in L.A. hints at a future where employment on a company payroll is increasingly difficult to find.

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The news is similar all across California (and western cities, generally). In San Jose, gig-employment increased more than 140 percent while payroll work precipitously dropped by 30 percent. San Francisco and San Diego saw similar numbers to L.A., and Sacramento showed more modest gig-gains and payroll losses than San Jose. Individually, San Jose and San Francisco topped the list with the largest increase in "gig" work.

While, sure, this means more people are able to immediately feed and house themselves using money earned through these jobs, gig-economy jobs lack benefits like retirement and healthcare packages. Don't forget, too, that gig jobs do not withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes, meaning you can expect to pay lots to the federal government come tax time.

"It's fascinating to see Los Angeles and the California coastal (metropolitan areas) again playing their role as early adopters," said Mark Muro, one of the report's authors, to KPCC.

You hear that guys, we're early adopters! Here's to a future free from employer-provided healthcare, and 401(k)s!

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