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Labor Department reveals more Americans are self-employed

February 4, 2011 |  1:34 pm

Freelancers union
New job figures released Friday might have been more meager than most economists had expected, but at least one set of numbers made some people happy. That's because the Bureau of Labor Statistics added a new category this month for incorporated self-employed workers.

The new numbers reveal that 14 million Americans are self-employed, up from the 9 million that the old data indicated worked for themselves. Many workers find themselves making their own jobs once they become frustrated with employers' reticence to hire.

Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union, says she hopes the new numbers draw attention to the situation that many Americans are in today.

"People are not just waiting for companies to hire them, they are getting out on their own, starting their own work," she said. "But they’re not getting health insurance, retirement or access to unemployment benefits."

Indeed, companies are increasingly taking on contract employees and freelancers because they don't have to pay their health insurance costs. But Horowitz says that the country needs to think about the implications of that.

"We need to start thinking about how are we going to make sure that people have retirement benefits, access to unemployment benefits and health insurance," she said.

The additional data from the BLS is a good first step, she said. She predicts that down the road, most Americans will work for themselves, rather than for big companies.

"People are working gigs now, but the BLS is tracking jobs. They’re two different things," she said. "We are really moving towards a gig economy."

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 -- Alana Semuels

Photo: A Freelancers Union bus ad in L.A. Credit: Freelancers Union via Flickr

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