The unprecedented slowdown in economic activity has forced some to enter the gig market to provide for their family. Even though Congress passed a stimulus package that extends unemployment benefits to gig workers, many still face challenges when applying for aid.
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How is the gig economy doing? Better, worse, or volatile like the stock market?
This depends entirely on which part of the gig economy we look at. Companies focused on delivering food and packages have seen a spike in demand and increased hiring as a result. The surge in online shopping has left some app-based services and companies like Amazon scrambling to fulfill orders. Other gig workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers face a sharp decline in demand with no end in sight.
Companies like Instacart and Amazon continue hiring new temporary help to manage the surge in demand. However, with the ever-changing pandemic landscape, the future of these jobs is unclear.
This volatility in the gig market will continue into the foreseeable future since there is no treatment or vaccine for coronavirus. Social distancing is a tool for slowing the spread, which may need to be implemented repeatedly.
Thus, demand for delivery services will continue to ebb and flow as restrictions are loosened or tightened. People may also be wary of going to crowded places and continue to use online retail and grocery delivery services.
Are there some services that are in more demand than others?
Companies delivering groceries, packages and meals saw an uptick in demand. With more people staying home as much as possible, grocery and meal delivery services experienced a sharp increase in orders.
Even though the initial rush to stock up pantries for the lockdown has evened out, grocery stores continue to see high demand. This had led to an increase in job openings for cashiers and workers to stock shelves.
As shopping demand shifted from brick-and-mortar retail to online, companies such as Amazon scrambled to fill delivery and warehouse openings. Many businesses have pivoted from in-person to online offerings, creating temporary gig openings while demand is high.
Many of these jobs have few requirements, making the entry bar low. Workers often need to be capable of lifting and carrying heavy loads, pass a background check and have access to their own transportation.
What are the pros?
Thinking about a gig job? Here are some positives of taking a temporary gig job:
- Flexibility – Unlike traditional jobs, gig workers have the flexibility to work when they want. They can also choose the types of jobs they do and where they do them. This can help when trying to balance work and home life. There is also no requirement to work a set number of hours. Gig workers can work as much or as little as they want (assuming there’s still demand for the work).
- Independence – When you work a temp gig job, there is no one breathing down your neck or telling you what to do. You can pick up and complete your assignment using your best judgement. Sure, companies have guidelines and policies you need to follow, but there is no boss micromanaging your every move. Not working for a traditional employer also means you get to avoid office politics and meddling coworkers.
- Extra income – If you have a full-time or even a part-time job, gig work allows you to earn extra income when you need it. You can pick up gigs when you need the money and leave your schedule open when you don’t. This can be particularly helpful for paying off debt or saving for a big goal such as a down payment on a car.
- Variety – Working the same job day in and day out can get boring. Gig jobs offer variety since you can pick from different app platforms and roles. For example, a gig worker can pick up passengers with a ride sharing app in the morning, deliver groceries with another company midday and pick up restaurant delivery orders around dinnertime. This not only helps workers diversify their income but also keeps work interesting.
What are the cons?
While there are positives to gig jobs, there are several downsides that may give you a pause. Below are some cons you should consider before picking up a gig job:
- Coronavirus exposure – Lots of gig jobs require getting out of your house and interacting with people. This can put you in contact with people who are sick or carriers, increasing your risk of contracting coronavirus. You need to weigh the risks of taking on gig work when it can make you or your family sick.
- Inconsistent income – When you have a full-time or part-time job through an employer, you can rely on getting paid on schedule. With gig work, your earnings can vary based on available jobs, demand, competition with other gig workers and so on.
- Low pay – Pay for gigs can be low and competition high. Most gigs pay a set fee plus customer tips. For example, driving for Uber typically pays $9.21 per hour after expenses and fees are taken into consideration.
- Unemployment benefits – If you are unemployed and qualify for unemployment benefits, taking on gig work can result in less pay. That’s because it can reduce the amount of weekly unemployment benefits you can receive from your state. Check with your state’s unemployment office on their policies to determine if gig work makes sense for you.
- Lack of benefits – Since gig workers are freelancers and independent contractors, these jobs don’t come with benefits. There is no company 401(k) or health insurance to take care of your retirement or your health. Gig workers pay for their own health care and retirement savings out of their earnings.
Where can workers needing more income turn?
With unemployment numbers quickly climbing, many workers are looking to earn extra income. While some companies are laying off staff because of reduced business because of coronavirus, others are seeing increased demand.
Here are some companies looking to hire more workers right now:
- Ace Hardware – The hardware and home improvement retailers is looking to hire more than 30,000 workers nationwide.
- Amazon – With increase in demand for its grocery delivery services and overall uptick in online orders, Amazon is looking to hire 175,000 new workers in fulfillment centers and delivery network.
- CVS Health – The pharmacy giant has seen an increase in demand and is looking to hire 50,000 employees in various positions.
- Dollar General – The discount retailer is looking to fill 50,000 jobs.
- Dollar Tree – Dollar Tree, the parent company of discount store Family Dollar, is looking for 25,000 new hires for stores and distribution centers.
- FedEx – With more online orders comes an increase in shipping demand so FedEx is looking to fill 35,000 essential roles.
- Instacart – The sharp increase in the demand for grocery delivery services means Instacart is hiring 300,000 contract workers in the next few months.
- Lowe’s – More demand because of the pandemic means Lowe’s is looking to hire 30,000 new employees.
- Pizza Hut – More pizza delivery orders means an increased need for drivers, shift leaders, cooks and managers with 30,000 new positions open.
- Kroger – Grocery stores have seen an increase in demand, leading giants like Kroger to hire an additional 20,000 workers.
- Walmart – The retail giant is hiring 50,000 workers for its distribution and fulfillment centers because of an increase in demand due to coronavirus.
With no end in sight for the pandemic, the demand for certain gig services will continue to be strong. Even though some states are reopening their economies, until there is a treatment or vaccine for coronavirus, people will be encouraged to practice social distancing.
More gig economy companies are rolling out emergency policies to protect their workers. This includes providing supplies such as masks and gloves and offering paid time off to those who get sick with coronavirus. Still, many gig workers say companies haven’t done enough to protect them.
Besides the uptick in job openings for gig work in the short term, experts suggest this may be a long-term trend. If people continue to view crowded places and stores as a threat, demand for certain gig economy jobs–like home deliveries–is here to stay.
Related: Tax Tips for Gig Workers