Austin’s Impact on the Gig Economy

The Forrest Four-Cast: October 19, 2016

A study released by the Brookings Institute on October 13 adds some interesting context to the ever-contentious debate over so-called non-employer services such as Uber, Lyft and AirBNB. Titled “Tracking the Gig Economy: New Numbers,” this report finds that “platform-based freelancing is not yet substantially displacing payroll employment — but that could change.” The report also documents that most gig economy expansion is happening in the nation’s largest metro areas (“no less than 81% of the four-year net growth in non-employer firms in the rides sector took place in the 25 largest metros”).

The role of Central Texas in the overall growth of the gig economy is particularly fascinating. In the category that is dryly labeled as “Change in non-employer firms and payroll in select passenger ground transportation industries,” Austin saw a 135.5% increase over the 2012–2014 time period. This increase was fourth largest in nation (behind only San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles). Meanwhile, in the category titled “Change in non-employer firms and payroll in select traveler accommodation industries,” Austin was the nation’s top-growing city in this 2012–2014 time period, with a 48.2% increase. Rounding out the five fastest growing cities for STRs were San Francisco, Portland, New Orleans and San Jose.

Of course, these numbers do not reflect the most recent changes in the Capital City — namely the May 1 ride-sharing vote that resulted in the departure of Uber and Lyft. Moreover, impending City of Austin regulations on AirBNB and other similar home rental services will inevitably change our position atop the leaderboard in this second category in future such studies.

Get more detailed (and more current) insights on the gig economy at SXSW 2017. Sessions covering this topic, as well as how non-employer services integrate (or not) with local, state and national governments include: “(10)99 Problems & W-2s Ain’t One,” “Going Through The Front Door With Local Government,” “How the Gig Economy Impacts the Future of Work,” “How to Uber-ize Public Transit to Save It,” “Is Government Disrupting Disruption?” (with Mark Cuban), and “When the Sharing Economy is Taken Away.” Also, reminder to buy your SXSW badge before the end of the day on Friday, October 21 to save up to $400 on the walkup rate.

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