Freelance ranks swell as U.S. economy slows: Survey

26 per cent of workers are 'free agents' and more are considering the move

Freelance professionals, or “free agents,” now make up more than one-quarter of the working population in the United States, reflecting a two-year increase that may be fueled in part by the current economic situation, according to a new survey.

An online survey of 900 people, conducted by Troy, Mich.-based employment agency Kelly Services, found 26 per cent of respondents classify themselves as free agents - up from 19 per cent in 2006. Free agents include individuals freelancing with or without the support of a temporary staffing agency, including independent consultants, temporary and contract employees, and entrepreneurs and business owners with or without staff.
“Though the vast majority of people become free agents by choice, others find themselves in this situation due to layoffs and downsizing,” said Mike Webster, executive vice-president and general manager of Kelly Services. 

“Fortunately, free agents are often essential to a functioning business and are particularly valuable during tough times because of the flexibility they provide employers as more work becomes project based.”

While almost three-quarters of respondents are directly employed by a company or firm, 28 per cent of these traditional workers say they would consider working as a free agent in the future.  Among those unlikely to consider it, 45 per cent cited health insurance as a concern.
Other survey highlights:
· 90 per cent of free agents voluntarily sought their current employment status

· more free agents are satisfied with the following than are traditional employees:

    · opportunity to expand skills (57 per cent vs. 39 per cent)

    · opportunity to advance in field or career (54 per cent vs. 38 per cent)

    · level of stress in current employment situation (52 per cent vs. 45 per cent)

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