Thriving in a ‘gig’ economy: Surprisingly, it’s easier than you might think

Cathi Eastman drives patients to their medical appointments as a way to supplement her income.

Courtesy photo
Cathi Eastman drives patients to their medical appointments as a way to supplement her income.

Oregon’s labor market is doing great.

“Jobs are being added at a very good rate,” says Nick Beleiciks, a state employment economist with the Oregon Employment Department. “In fact, Oregon has been adding jobs faster than the nation since 2013. The unemployment rate this year is the lowest it’s been in 40 years, which is as far back as comparative figures exist. These are signs that Oregon’s economy is doing well.”

Beleiciks credits strong growth and low unemployment for changing the economic conversation from “How do we find enough jobs for all these workers?” to “How do we find enough workers for all these jobs?”

“As more employees reach retirement age and leave the workforce, some employers are struggling to find enough workers to replace them,” Beleiciks says. “Businesses are looking for people with previous related work experience, which can be hard to find among applicants.”

Although many over age 50 are retiring and leaving the labor force, he says others are choosing to continue to work.

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Nick Beleiciks, a state employment economist.

“One in five Oregonians age 65 years and over remains in the labor workforce,” he says. “That’s double the share of seniors who were in the labor force 30 years ago. It’s not just an Oregon thing. Seniors across the nation are now more likely to participate in the labor market than the previous generation.”

Many retirees are starting their own business ventures, taking a part-time position or consulting. With the overall health of the economy, Beleiciks believes this is a good move for many older adults.

“The opportunities are out there,” he says. “Make sure to get advice from a financial planner to maximize your income from benefits and earnings from work. Experienced job seekers have a lot of options right now. Boomers may be able to find part-time work related to their former career, or apply their experience and skill sets to an entirely different line of work.”

In 2007 at age 62, Sue Miholer retired from a position as special education instructional assistant for the Salem-Keizer School District.

“Only because I felt I was too old for people to be telling me what days I could and couldn’t take off,” she says. “It was a job I enjoyed, and I subbed for another five years two or three days a week in special education classrooms – on my schedule. That also gave me experience to volunteer on the team at my church that works with special needs kids so the rest of their families can attend church together.”

Since 1998, Miholer has been involved with Oregon Christian Writers, and has served as the organization’s business manager for the last decade.

“I get paid a small stipend monthly for about 40 hours of work a month,” she says. “But it has also given me lots of contacts in the writing community, and I freelance edit for publishers and mostly individuals who are preparing to self-publish.”

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Sue Miholer working the registration table at the 2017 Christian Writers conference.

In the last 16 years, Miholer has edited at least 60 book-length manuscripts.

“I like the fact that I can live the business side of my life on my own schedule,” she says.

Cathi Eastman, 64, is a partner in the online business, scottishpatterns.com. Since the business has a limited target audience, she recently chose to drive patients to medical appointments, other than emergencies, as a way to augment her finances.

“They depend on us to get to their facility or back home safely,” says Eastman, who works for Mercy 1 Transportation. “It’s a big responsibility.”

Everyone has life tales to share, she says.

“And I love hearing my passengers’ stories,” Eastman adds. “Sometimes I think that we drivers might be the only person someone can share their hearts with.”

Beleiciks says companies like Uber, Airbnb and Task-Rabbit are high-profile examples of the gig economy, which includes any work done on a short-term contract.

“It’s easier than ever to find customers online through gig economy platforms and social networks,” he says. “Anyone can post on Facebook that they’re interested in babysitting, or doing alterations, or some other gig.”

Help and advice for starting your own business in Oregon is available from a variety of sources, according to Beleiciks.

“A great place to start is through a local Oregon Small Business Development Center,” he says.

For the Small Business Development Center in Salem, call 503-399-5088.

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