Afternoon Coffee: BLS Releases Contingent Workforce Supplement, Foxconn Investigating Labor Conditions at Amazon-Contracted Plant

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released Thursday its long-awaited 2017 Contingent Workforce Supplement, which has not been published since 2005, when funding for the survey was cut. The supplement provides estimates and analysis of the segment of the U.S. workforce that engaged in “contingent and alternative work arrangements.” The BLS reported that in May 2017 some 3.8% of workers — 5.9 million persons — performed jobs in “contingent and alternative work arrangements.”

It should be cautioned, however, that the BLS-defined worker segment does not truly represent what procurement professionals would consider contingent workforce. Rather, it includes only some of those categories (e.g., temporary help agency workers, independent contractors, workers provided by contract firms).

Taking that into account, based on a cursory review of the press release, many of the findings seem counterintuitive. Overall, BLS estimates indicate a decline of the subject workforce in terms of percent of total employment.

“Given the changes in the structure of the workforce that have been happening over just the past eight years, the continuation of the supplement is a positive step in the right direction,” said Andrew Karpie, research director for labor and services procurement at Spend Matters.  “However, the survey was designed for various others purposes, besides analyzing what we would call the ‘gig’ or ‘freelance’ economy. Four additional questions were added to address this area, but those results will not be released until this July. Certainly there is going to be useful information for practitioners. So after we wade through the category and methodology details, we should be able to separate some of the wheat from the chaff.”

Foxconn Investigation

Foxconn is investigating a plant in China that makes Amazon Echo dots and Kindle e-readers for accusations of harsh working conditions, Reuters reports. According to a report published by New York-based China Labor Watch, the factory in question has instances of excessive hours, low wages, inadequate training and an overreliance on “dispatch” or temporary workers in violation of Chinese law.

Apple Warns Suppliers 

Apple has notified iPhone suppliers that they should expect to send 20% fewer parts due to lower demand for the company’s flagship product, according to Supply Chain Dive. Apple fulfilled 100 million orders of iPhones last year but expects 80 million this year.

Canada’s Labor Market 

On the tail of a tumultuous G7 meeting, here’s an economic update from our neighbor to the north: Canada unexpectedly shed jobs in May, by 7,500 on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Wall Street Journal reports. That was the country’s second-straight month of job losses, keeping the unemployment rate at 5.8%. Average hourly wage growth, however, jumped 3.9% in May from the same month a year ago, the fastest annual gain in over nine years.

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