(p. B1) American workers are experiencing, by many measures, one of the best job markets ever. The unemployment rate has matched a 53-year low. Job listings per available worker are at historic highs. Wages, while not quite keeping up with inflation, are rising at their fastest pace in decades.
So why would people keep doing gig work, a notoriously difficult and insecure way to make a living?
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Picking up shifts offers something that traditional permanent employment still generally doesn’t: the ability to work when and as much as you want, demand permitting, which is often essential to balance life obligations like school or child care.
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(p. B5) “We were seeing this move towards multiple income streams, because that work was picked up as a stopgap and then continued,” Dr. Gervis said.
Take Denae Bettis, a 23-year-old Steady user living in Severn, Md. After dropping out of college, she got a job at UPS, and after a few years rose to become a safety supervisor, usually starting at 4 a.m. During the pandemic, she took on more responsibilities.
“The job got really stressful, and I felt like I had no way out,” Ms. Bettis said. So in June 2020, she started a side gig through Instacart, shopping for people holed up at home. The next month, she quit her job, making it easier for her to pursue her passion: working as a personal makeup artist, which often requires taking early-morning appointments.
Surviving on income from gigs — which for Ms. Bettis now include DoorDash as well as Instacart — isn’t easy. But Ms. Bettis thinks she can save enough money to open her own storefront.
“We just went through a period where millions died, so are you going to spend your time at your job if it doesn’t fulfill you?” Ms. Bettis said, summing up gig work’s appeal. “Everybody loves stability, but if the flexibility isn’t there, I don’t think a lot of people are going to go back.”
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 17, 2022, and has the title “If the Job Market Is So Good, Why Is Gig Work Thriving?.”)