Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced plans to revive the Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS) to the upcoming Current Population Survey, in an effort to capture a more accurate picture of the modern workforce. In a step closer to achieving this end, the DOL's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on September 30, 2016, published a notice and comment request regarding the proposed reintroduction—and expansion—of the CWS. The next Current Population Survey will take place in May 2017.
The CWS has not been utilized since 2005, when it was discontinued for funding reasons. Since then, the nature of employment has changed radically. Millions of Americans now work in alternative or contingent arrangements, including on-demand jobs, in the so-called “gig” economy. By reviving the CWS, the DOL hopes to gather reliable statistics about the number and characteristics of these types of workers.
As indicated in the notice, the DOL also intends to add four new questions to the CWS. According to the DOL, “two questions will focus on whether individuals obtain customers or online tasks through mobile apps.” These questions will elicit information about how on-demand workers are finding their jobs and connecting with customers. The two additional proposed questions “will examine whether work obtained through electronic matching platforms is a source of secondary earnings.” As the proposed questions could be used to inform policymakers about legislative and/or regulatory actions addressing service providers in the “gig” economy, the import of this BLS notice may be far beyond a mere survey change.
Employers may comment on the proposed collection of this information through November 29, 2016.