There's a growing view that the way economic statistics are collected and analyzed fails to reflect the economic and jobs impact of independent work - especially independent work created by new economy companies like Airbnb, Etsy and Elance.
In an attempt to fix this problem (or at least shine a light on them), these companies are producing impact studies highlighting the economic activity they claim they're creating:
Airbnb's study claims Airbnb hosts (their term for the folks that rent rooms via Airbnb) generate $632 million in economic activity in New York city alone. They also claim they generate 4,580 jobs in NY city. They are focused on New York city because of a dispute they are having with state and local officials over the legality of Airbnb's offerings.
Etsy's study shows that Esty sellers (Etsy is online crafts marketplace) generated almost $900 million in sales last year. The study also shows that despite the fact that most Esty sellers are part-timers, the vast majority consider their Etsy efforts a business that helps them meet their financial obligations.
Elance's monthly jobs report aims to supplement the monthly Bureau of Labor statistics employment report which, according to Elance, "does not fully capture independent workers due to outdated reporting standards."
We, of course, have also produced an economic impact study related to independent work.
This year's MBO Partners State of Independence Report shows that 17.7 million U.S. independent workers generated almost $1.2 trillion in revenue in 2012 and created the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs through the contract hiring of other independent workers.
We've covered the decline in the official workforce participation numbers quite a bit. While the jury's still out on this topic, it seems highly likely that independent workers operating outside of the view of traditional government statistics is one of the drivers in the decline.
It's also likely is the growth of independent work will result in more confusion about this sector's economic impact.
As more people turn to multiple sources of income and multi-job portfolio careers (including even selling body parts), measuring the economic impact of these activities will get even more challenging.