Robert J. Samuelson’s June 18 op-ed, “Is the gig economy a myth?,” highlighted a major gap in the nation’s economic statistical measurements. Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been flat-funded since 2009, its purchasing power has lost nearly $90 million because of inflation. The bureau barely has the capacity to keep up with its myriad programs — to track labor activity, inflation, productivity, working conditions and much more — let alone research gig work. How much of the workforce is involved in it? Are the numbers increasing or decreasing? What is its impact on our economy and families?
Consider that the June 7 release of the Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Summary , which seemed to ask as many questions about the gig economy as it answered, was the first since 2005 and was sponsored by the Labor Department’s Chief Evaluation Office likely because the BLS lacked the funds.
There are many other emerging issues, including robotics and artificial intelligence, that we need to better understand. The BLS would be prepared to undertake such research if not for its neglected budget.
Steve Pierson, Washington
The writer is director of science policy for the American Statistical Association.