Is the U.S. becoming a “gig” economy, where an increasing number of workers cobble together a living from jobs picked up on Uber, Airbnb and Taskrabbit, and even those with advanced skills become self-employed super temps?
That’s been the subject of statistical, as well as political, debate in recent months. The Government Accountability Office weighed in on one side, saying that 40.4% of U.S. workers are self-employed, part-time, temps or freelancers, up from 30.6% in 2006. Meanwhile, Adam Ozimek of Moody’s looked at monthly data put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found the opposite – no discernible growth in the percentage of workers who are self employed, and an actual decline in the percentage with multiple jobs.
Over at Bloomberg, Justin Fox posted a piece yesterday evening showing there are problems with both sets of data. His conclusion, after digging deep into the numbers: something is going on here, although it is still relatively small – or to use Ozimek’s words, “a phenomena on the fringes of the labor market.”
Of course, all big and interesting trends start small and on the fringes. There seems little doubt that technology is transforming labor markets. Expect the change to accelerate.
More news below.
• S&P notches impressive rebound
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index posted its biggest rally since November 2011, a much-needed rebound for the market after a recent pullback in the stock market erased over $2 trillion from share values. The turmoil, which is tied to economic weakness in China, has led some to lower their expectations the Federal Reserve will increase rates as soon as next month. But U.S. economic indicators signal the domestic market continues to perform solidly, which likely comforted investors on Wednesday. Bloomberg
• Wall Street rally lifts global stocks
The rally on Wall Street yesterday helped give global markets a lift, with shares in China posting their biggest one-day gain in eight weeks. Shares were also higher in Japan, Germany, France and other markets. The losses in China have lessened in recent days as officials there took steps to shore up the nation’s economy. Analysts say worries about China and a possible Fed rate hike will lead to more volatility in the global stock market. USA Today
• Trump’s antics could hurt GOP
Presidential candidates love to lament the coverage they generate from the media, so it isn’t completely surprising that Donald Trump would be a bit combative. But Trump blew up twice this week on two well known media personalities: Megyn Kelly of Fox and Jorge Ramos of Univision and Fusion. The latter is more problematic when it comes to pulling in Hispanic votes, as Trump and other candidates strike anti-immigration stances that could hurt the party’s standing with a growing population of voters. Fortune
• Monsanto drops bid for Syngenta
Syngenta’s shares tumbled 14% on Wednesday after agribusiness rival Monsanto abandoned a recently sweetened $47 billion deal for the Swiss-based company. Since the offer first was made public in May, Syngenta has sternly rejected the offer, saying it “significantly undervalued the company.” Monsanto fought hard for the deal even though both firms said there would be regulatory hurdles in several countries. Going forward, Monsanto plans to resume a share buyback program and focus on its core business. Reuters
• Schlumberger buys Cameron for $12.7 billion
Wednesday was a fairly busy day for big M&A news that is usually made public on “Merger Monday.” The big deal of the day: oil-field service company Schlumberger is paying $12.74 billion in a cash-and-stock deal for smaller rival Cameron. That deal comes as firms in the space struggle with low oil prices and a pullback in drilling activity, likely to inspire more acquisitions in the sector as a way to better weather the downturn. And WSJ reports that there will likely be more deals within the oil-field service sector. WSJ (subscription required)
Around the Water Cooler
• Facebook testing artificial intelligence
Facebook has started to test an artificial-intelligence service that the social-network company says could complete tasks on a consumer’s behalf. Those tasks? They include buying items, getting gifts delivered, booking restaurant reservations and appointments. (Notice a theme? All those tasks mentioned involve spending money). The tested service is part of Facebook’s messaging app, a move that makes sense when you consider Facebook earlier this year allowed business to connect customers directly through the app. Fortune
• Walmart outlines holiday strategy
We haven’t even gotten fully through the month of August and Walmart is already talking about how the retailer intends to battle for consumer spending during the key shopping period. The retailer outlined several ways to make its annual holiday season layaway program more accessible to customers, including starting it earlier and giving shoppers more time to pay their bill. Offering layaway helps Walmart as many of its customers live paycheck to paycheck. Fortune