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Counting America’s Freelance, Ahem, 'Self-Employed' Workers

The rise of the freelance economy gets plenty of attention. Getting a handle on how many U.S. workers fit into this bucket is harder than you’d think.

An old Intuit survey projected that more than 40 percent (PDF) of the U.S. workforce would be contingent workers by 2020. More recently, a lobbying group called It’s My Business estimated there are 10.3 million independent contractors working in the U.S. today. Freelancers Union, meanwhile, says 42 million workers, or one-third of the U.S. workforce, are already freelancers—and makes a habit of admonishing the Bureau of Labor Statistics for failing to take note.