Phoenix ranked 13th among the best U.S. cities for the gig economy and landed 3rd-best among the Western U.S. locations, according to the newest study published by CommercialSearch ranking the best U.S. metros for the gig economy. The Arizona metro got some of its highest scores for the notable five-year increase in the number of non-employer establishments, as well as for Phoenix co-working space offering gig workers some of the most affordable options of flexible and shared work space in the region.
Jobs data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the start of May showed that, despite challenges across several sectors of the economy, the U.S. labor market continued to show resilience: 253,000 new jobs were added and the unemployment rate remained relatively stable below 3.5%. Plus, some economists noted that, even with such low unemployment numbers and a strong employment market, the gig workforce continued to grow.
Whether it’s freelance work in addition to a “day job,” full-time freelance for maximum flexibility, or temporary freelance work between traditional employment opportunities, people working as self-employed, independent contractors in a wide variety of occupations are estimated to represent as much as 15% of the workforce.
Of course, no matter the occupation, making the most out of the possibilities of gig work can depend greatly on location. As such, we set out to identify the U.S. metros with the best gig economy potential. To that end, we compared more than 70 of the most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S. and scored them across several indicators, which could add up to a maximum total score of 100 points (see the methodology section for details).
Read on for our findings on the top 20 U.S. metros for the gig economy, as well as highlights for each of the four major regions in the U.S. Additionally, following our metro area ranking highlights are insightful contributions from gig economy experts who share their takes on what drives success in the gig economy and what transformational potential it harbors.
Top 20 U.S. Metros for the Gig Economy
The Miami metropolitan area earned the highest overall score (65 points) and took the #1 spot in our ranking. With a little more than 17,860 non-employer establishments per 100,000 residents, Miami stood out for the highest ratio of self-employed residents out of all of the metros we compared for this ranking. Notably, the metro also boasted one of the 10 highest rates of growth for non-employer establishments: With an increase of 23.2% throughout five years, Miami was roughly on par with San Antonio, Texas, as well as very close behind Jacksonville, Fla. (23.3%).
Freelancers in need of flexible workspace here will find that the south Florida metro boasts the third-highest coworking space density — an estimated 3.9 coworking spaces per 100,000 residents. What’s more, Miami coworking space also ranked among the top 10 most affordable on our list with a median price of $99 per person per month.
The second-best U.S. metro for gig work was Nashville, Tenn., which earned a total score of nearly 65 points. The annual median earnings for self-employed residents operating unincorporated businesses here was roughly $34,600 — fifth-highest among the metros we compared and not far behind Boston; Austin, Texas; New Haven, Conn.; and San Francisco. Nashville also scored among the top 10 for density of non-employer establishments: Its ratio of 10,086 businesses per 100,000 residents scored ninth-best, ahead of Houston and behind the New York metro area. Meanwhile, the density of co-working spaces in Nashville (2.9 per 100,000 residents) scored roughly on par with Dallas and Indianapolis, as well as closely behind San Jose, Calif. (3.1/100,000).
At the same time, Austin, Texas, was the third-best metro for the gig economy, with a little more than 62 points out of 100. Specifically, the hip Texas metro was home to the seventh-highest density of non-employer establishments (10,168 per 100,000 residents), scoring closely behind New Orleans. Moreover, non-employer numbers here increased 24.4% throughout five years, which represented the fourth-largest such growth among the metros we compared. However, Austin ranked even better in terms of earnings: Self-employed residents operating unincorporated businesses in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had annual median earnings of $34,898. Notably, that was the third-largest in our ranking, behind only New Haven, Conn., and San Francisco. Accordingly, freelance professionals here also have a relatively abundant choice of flexible workspace: Austin coworking space had the fifth-highest density in our ranking (3.6 co-working spaces per 100,000 residents).
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