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In average monthly payments, Uber drivers are earning less than half what they made back in 2013, when on-demand transportation apps were just picking up steam. But others taking advantage of gig economy apps, like Airbnb hosts, are making significantly more than they did four years ago.

JP Morgan Chase studied the checking accounts of 39 million Americans (yes, you read that right!) to get a better sense of how frequent and lucrative gig economy work is, a sector that can be tricky to measure. The bank’s researchers tracked payments to those accounts from 128 different online platforms between October 2012 and March 2018.

Uber app
(Shutterstock Photo)

Researchers found that between 2013 and 2017, average monthly earnings for workers in the transportation sector — like Uber drivers, Postmates couriers, and others transporting people or goods — fell 53 percent. For people leasing real estate and other assets — like Airbnb hosts — earnings rose 69 percent over the same period of time.

(JP Morgan Chase Graphic)

Bank account receipts in the study revealed that the majority of people selling on-demand services and apps in the gig economy do so only occasionally. Fifty-eight percent of workers were only active three or fewer months out of the previous year.

An Uber spokesperson said the findings “reinforce what we and many others have said for some time: that the growth in on-demand work is driven, in large part, by people who use platforms like Uber on the side.”

As of March 2018, 4.5 percent of families in the study did some form of gig economy work in the prior year. Transportation platforms, like Uber and Lyft, are the most popular among those families.

“Given the growing share of people who use platforms like Uber only occasionally, a more appropriate metric to focus on would be hourly average earnings, which have remained steady over time,” an Uber spokesperson said.

JP Morgan Chase says the decline in average earnings for on-demand transportation workers could be a result of the increased supply of drivers using those apps. Another possibility is that drivers are working fewer hours, according to the study. Researchers only looked at earnings from on-demand platforms, not hourly wages.

“Regardless of whether the drop in earnings was caused by a fall in wages or hours or both, it indicates that driving has become less and less likely to replace a full-time job over the past five years, as more drivers have joined the market,” the study says.

In case you’re wondering about the privacy implications of a study analyzing personal checking accounts, don’t worry, they were “de-identified.”

The researchers explain, “For this study, we extend the JPMorgan Chase Institute Online Platform Economy dataset in order to track supply-side participation and earnings. We identify 38 million payments directed through 128 different online platforms to 2.3 million distinct Chase checking accounts, out of a de-identified sample of 39 million, between October 2012 and March 2018.”

The JP Morgan Chase study was first spotted by Recode.

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