The Impact of COVID-19 on the Gig Economy in California

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in which we live. The virus has impacted everything from the economy to the medical field to how we interact with one another. In California, the virus and shutdown had heavy implications for the economy. With an economy centered on the entertainment industry, port system, tourism, and public university sector, the state was not spared from the virus induced recession with unemployment peaking at 15.5% in April of 2020 which was a 10% jump from the month prior.

The gig economy within the state also has not remained unaffected by the pandemic as well. A correlation has been seen between cases of COVID-19 and the amount of people applying for gig work which can be assumed in order to find a source of income while businesses remain closed or at lesser capacity and unemployment benefits tapering off. The below charts show how individuals were searching for jobs in San Francisco and California as a whole.

Along with an increase in interest in gig work, the industry specific gig work began to show a trend. Although businesses such as restaurants and bars are reopening, many cannot do so at full capacity yet thus the main interest in employment opportunities has moved towards remote work. Jobs such as freelancing or online surveys have seen an upward trend along with work that is necessary to continue social practices such as delivery jobs. These trends were particularly evident in the early stages of the pandemic as businesses began to close. While the interest in work such as housekeeping or babysitting or rideshare driving have been stunted due to social distancing practices.

Comparing the trends of interest in employment through the gig economy of 2019 and 2020, shows how the pandemic has impacted how people search for work. While delivery jobs remain of high interest and only gained attraction, rideshare driving saw a significant decrease. Another notable increase is interest in online surveys as they provide a supplemental income while also being doable from home or at a distance.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only has impacted the economy as a whole but how people apply for work. As the world moves out of a recession and into a new socially distant normal, the gig economy’s presence has increased and strengthened as the unemployed search for work that is flexible with the times.

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