Sen. Warner on BLS report on contingent and alternative workforce

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) comments after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a report that for the first time in years provided a snapshot of the contingent and alternative worker population.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Contingent Worker and Alternative Work Arrangement Supplement (CWS) to the Current Population Survey (CPS)  is considered the gold standard of measuring who is doing what in the American workforce, but data about the size and scope of the contingent workforce had not been collected since 2005 after its funding was eliminated. Since then, the federal government had struggled to keep up with an explosion in new technology and changes to the nature of work that have increased the range of opportunities for workers to pursue flexible arrangements. In the Senate, Sen. Warner led the charge in restoring funding to help collect this data and requesting the Department of Labor to relaunch the survey that culminated in this report.

“The federal government and the general public have lacked for many years reliable data to help paint a clear picture of our contingent workforce and their future. Without this crucial information, policymakers and experts are in the dark about the size and needs of this population, making it harder to find common ground on solutions that will help them navigate our intricate labor market. For this reason, I urged the federal government to re-establish these best practices and issue this report, which will help provide us with a direct understanding of what this part of our workforce looks like.

“Today’s news show that contingent workers play a significant role in our economy, with tens of millions of Americans – more than one in ten workers – identified as independent contractors, temps, and contract-firm workers. An while the data shows that there’s been a downward shift in the number of people who rely on contingent work as their main job, we still don’t know how many of them do so in order to supplement their income. Without this crucial piece of data, it will be tough for us to make an accurate assessment of the best way to help this dynamic segment of workers receive more training and resources, access a system of portable benefits they can carry from job to job, and file their taxes and claim deductions and credits. I will continue pushing the federal government and outside experts to fill-in these gaps and provide a full picture of this part of our workforce, and expect to seek more information on the tax challenges of these workers in the near future.”   

For years, Sen. Warner has been urging the federal government to collect better, more complete data on the number and type of workers who are part of the contingent workforce economy. Estimates of the contingent labor force range from a few percentage points to nearly a third of the American labor force engaging in some type of independent work arrangement.

Last year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to test and evaluate innovative portable-benefits models for independent workers. He is also the author of bipartisan legislation aimed at increasing the availability of job training to lower- and moderate-income workers, in an effort to stay on top of the rapidly changing technology and skills requirements for today’s workforce.


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