August 15 2019

Capital Region’s “Gig” Economy Grows

Boosted by the introduction of ridesharing to upstate, as well as a stronger real estate market and creative economy, the Capital Region’s ranks of independent contractors increased by 5.4 percent between 2013 and 2017. The economic impact of these mostly self-employed or freelance workers, also referred to as “nonemployer establishments,” grew even more, increasing by 11.7 percent during that period to $3.3 billion, according to a Center for Economic Growth (CEG) analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data.


In 2017, the eight-county region had 70,897 nonemployers. These nonemployer businesses, according to the Census Bureau, have no paid employees, have annual business receipts of $1,000 or more ($1 or more in the construction industries), and are subject to federal income taxes. At 16.5 percent, professional, scientific and technical services was the sector with the greatest share of nonemployers, followed by other services (except public administration) at 13.2 percent and real estate & rental & leasing at 12.4 percent. The professional services and real estate nonemployer sectors were also the region’s most lucrative, with 2017 receipts totaling $527 million and $96.3 million, respectively.


During the five-year period, nonemployers in the region’s transportation and warehousing sector increased by 1,705, or 100.9 percent, to 3,451. That made it the region’s fastest-growing nonemployer sector. This increase coincided with the introduction of ride sharing to upstate in late June 2017. Other fast-growing nonemployer sectors included real estate and rental and leasing, which increased by 811, or 13.7 percent, and arts, entertainment, & recreation, which increased by 302, or 12 percent.

CEG Activities

Compared to the state and nation, the Capital Region’s nonemployer gains during the five-year period were modest. Overall, the state’s ranks of nonemployers grew by 7.7 percent and the nation’s by 11.7 percent.

CEG is working to increase the region’s ranks of nonemployers – with the goal of helping them become employers – through the following initiatives:

Partnering with the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy to accelerate the growth of the creative economy, which includes thousands of independent artists, writers and performers as well as solo creative manufacturers and artisan restaurateurs.

Supporting the formation and growth of local minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) and disadvantaged small businesses through KeyBank Business Boost & Build (KBBB). For this program, CEG hosts workshops and one-on-one consultations and provides technical support through this program funded by KeyBank. 

Providing technical assistance to entrepreneurs, including access to labs, office space, and other facilities; venture pitch coaching; and identifying potential mentors and investors.

Helping entrepreneurs develop porotypes with CEG’s 3D printer services.


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