How New Technologies Are
Reshaping the Future of Work | 2016
By Jon Lieber, Chief Economist, Thumbtack
& Lucas Puente, Economic Analyst, Thumbtack
The Old Economy
The labor market in the 20th century was based
around large employers and the manufacturing
industry, but that era is gone, thanks to automation
The Economy of the Future
Smaller businesses are playing a bigger role than
ever, as more Americans are ﬁnding work in the
services economy and technology has made starting
a small business cheaper and easier than ever.
The 21st Century’s Economic Challenge
This shift has produced a bifurcation in the labor
market; those without college degrees are far more
likely to face dismal labor market conditions.
Non-Routine Jobs: The Jobs of the Future
• Customer service reps
• Travel agents
• Professional drivers
• Machine operators,
• Warehouse laborers
• Laundry cleaners
• Architectural drafters
• Graphic designers
• Land surveyors
• Professional chefs
• Dog trainers
Unpacking the “Gig Economy”
Marketplaces provide consumers with specialized
services from skilled professionals. This gives the
service provider a chance to earn ﬂexible income and
their own terms and build a business and career.
Online marketplaces are more than 4 times more cost-
effective than ofﬂine marketing in introducing skilled
pros to new customers, their single biggest challenge.
Marketplaces Solve Pros’ Main Concern
Source: Thumbtack survey, June 2015 (5,000 professionals)
Where Are Workers Using Marketplaces?
We used Twitter data as a proxy for adoption rates in
different markets, based on the theory that platforms
with more followers on Twitter in a given area likely
have more users and more service providers in that
How Policymakers Can Help Skilled Pros
1. Invest in developing skills outside of educational institutions.
• Example: the Obama Administrations’s American Apprenticeship
2. Strengthen the social safety net and move away from employer-
• Example: Affordable Care Act
3. When it comes to taxes, focus on reducing burden of compliance.
• Example: Ohio’s municipal tax reform
1. As we ﬁnalize a transition to a service-based economy, workers
are presented with new challenges, but also new opportunities.
2. Technology can help workers most by empowering them to
efﬁciently reach clients seeking their specialized skills, not by
turning them into on-demand commodities.
3. Policymakers should work to help all workers in this new
environment, not just those with traditional employment
Jon Lieber is Thumbtack's Chief
Economist and head of policy research,
studying trends in the labor market,
entrepreneurship, and the small business
economy. He has spent over a decade in
Washington, D.C.,advising policymakers
on economic policy, and currently serves
as a board member for the Center for
American Entrepreneurship, a research
organization dedicated to improving the
environment for startups and
entrepreneurs. He can be reached at
Lucas Puente is the Economic Analyst at
Thumbtack, where he studies
Thumbtack's marketplace dynamics and
the policy challenges facing small service
businesses. He has a master's degree and
Ph.D. from Stanford University and is a
graduate of the University of Georgia.
He can be reached at