Even with a record number of traditional jobs available, the number of independent workers in the U.S. keep climbing, according to new research.

There are now 64.6 million independent workers in the U.S., according to “Happier, Healthier Wealthier: The State of Independence in America,” issued by MBO Partners, a provider of back-office services to independent workers.

The report found that the number of full-time independents—those working 15 hours a week or more—is 21.6 million, up from 15.3 million in 2019.

The number of high-income independents—those earning $100,000 a year or more—rose to 4.4 million, up 16% from last year, as a result, in part, of corporations relying more on highly skilled independents.

And those dipping a toe in the water at least once a month grew to 31.9 million, up from 15.8 million in 2020.

Drivers of this trend include the macroeconomic climate, advances in platforms and other infrastructure supporting independent work, and attitudes more accepting of this career choice, the researchers found.

“The overall numbers continue to validate what has been a multi -year trend,” says Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners. “The life choice to be an independent is not a new phenomenon. That’s a trend we’ve been seeing for some time. The data is proving it.”

Everson sees the trends as part of the Great Realization—a follow-on to the Great Resignation. “The Great Resignation is what am I moving away from? The Great Realization is what am I moving to,” he says. “They’re moving to a happier, healthier and wealthier lifestyle by being independent.”

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The report found that 84% of independent workers say they are happier working on their own. 80% said it is better for their health.

The pandemic also pushed more people try independent work, the report found.

“Many people were pushed out of full-time work in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid, to care for children who weren’t in school full-time, or to care for parents, and haven’t been able to seek full-time employment,” the report explains. “But they still want to work and there is high demand for their skills. Others may be turning to part-time work as a bulwark against rising costs due to inflation and insecurity stemming from the volatile environment.”

Other key findings in the report:

· 51% of independent workers say they get their work through word of mouth, down from 81% in 2015. More are getting work through referrals from other freelancers, online platforms and social media.

· The biggest challenge for independent workers—not enough predictable income—is being cited less. 42% of workers mentioned it, compared to 55% in 2011.

· 22% of traditional job holders said they had teamed with an independent worker, up from 18% in 2020.

· The number of independent creators working on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram rose to 8.1 million, up 14% since the year before.

· The proportion of Black Americans who are independent workers rose from 7% to 14% of all independents from 2019 to 2022; meanwhile, the proportion of white independents dipped from 84% to 77%.

· More traditional workers see independent work as less risky than traditional jobs.

· The percentage of Americans interested in independent work rose from an average of 13% in 2012-2019 to 17% in 2022.

· 41% of independent workers are using online marketplaces to find work. Some are doing so to build teams.

Ultimately, the growth shows no signs of slowing down—and that’s not just because of what’s happening in the economy.

“There’s a bigger social factor that’s driving it,” says Everson. “No one trusts central authority anymore. Workers don’t trust their employers to take care of them.”

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