Study: gig economy boosts in Oklahoma City

Uber, the leading gig economy job, reinvented the taxi service. Online photo.

Uber, the leading gig economy job, reinvented the taxi service. Online photo.

Some Oklahoma Christian University students have turned away from traditional payroll jobs and looked towards ‘gig jobs’ to make money in between classes, studying and socializing.

According to new research, the gig economy is growing in Oklahoma City and even on the campus of Oklahoma Christian.

The Brookings Institution defines the gig economy as the connecting of freelancers and customers on a digital platform or marketplace. Rides and room segments such as Uber and Lyft contribute the majority of the gig economy.

A report by the Institution estimated non-employer firms totaled nearly 24 million in 2014. In Oklahoma City, gig work in rides grew by 62.4 percent from 2012 to 2014 according to NewsOK.

Senior Tori Naylor, a nursing student at Oklahoma Christian, has worked as an Uber driver multiple times, earning money from the rides she gives around Edmond.

“At first I just thought it would be a cool opportunity to be an Uber driver, but then it really paid off when I got the extra cash,” Naylor said. “I was able to do it whenever I had some free time in between classes and on weekends, so I was able to make my own hours.”

Naylor said she enjoys the flexibility of a job with Uber and how simple it was to make money.

Kerianne Roper, an associate professor of marketing and e-business at Oklahoma Christian, told NewsOK the gig economy is growing because customer needs are being met better with advances in technology.

“Opportunity analysis is a skill that we discuss frequently with our business students,” Roper said. “And part of the process is assessing any developments that might help fulfill customer needs better than they are currently being filled. The increase in non-employer workers is partly a result of that process in action.”

Compared to payroll employment in Oklahoma City, gig work in rides had a 41.9 percent growth increase in 2014, according to the Institution’s report.

Roper said her students are often looking for more than just employment when they sign up with companies in the gig economy.

“Many of them are looking for the opportunity to manage their own business, or add new value to the market,” Roper said. “By assessing the way current customer needs are met, and investigating gaps where unmet or undeserved needs exist, you can identify new opportunities.”

Naylor said during her time as an Uber driver she met new people and experienced many memorable moments.

“My first night on a drive I picked up an OC student from University House and we talked a little and got to know each other a little more,” Naylor said. “It was cool.”

Roper said the gig economy will continue to grow as technology further meets customer needs.

“While non-employer jobs are on the rise, they are still relatively new as far as being part of our economy,” Roper said. “I would say their ability to meet customer needs is at the heart of the answer to the question of how long they will be around.”

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