Monthly Labor Market Report: A U-turn and a slowdown

Key points

  • After several signs of tightening in April, the labor market for hourly workers loosened in May
  • Instawork Pros had the hardest time in four months finding full-time jobs and hours
  • Strings of increases in hourly pay for flexible work across several industries are expected to end in June
  • Survey results suggest Instawork Pros are in precarious financial positions and rely on a strong labor market

Every day, the Instawork platform handles thousands of transactions involving businesses and hourly professionals, generating a huge amount of data on hourly pay as well as other aspects of the labor market. This report summarizes some of the major trends in demographics, roles, and worker constraints in regions across the United States.

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The data are also compiled into the Instawork Pay Signal Index (PSI) and indexed trends in hourly pay. Because businesses can book shifts in advance on the Instawork platform, the metrics include forward-looking data for the current month as well. Please refer to the appendix for explanations of the methods behind each metric.

Increases in hourly pay continued to dominate on the Instawork platform in May and are expected to do so in June as well. This would be the fifth straight month with a preponderance of businesses raising pay:

In-app survey data

Our in-app surveys track Pros' labor market situations on a monthly basis. For details on methods and questionnaires, please see the Methodological Appendix below.

Pros had an the toughest time since January finding full-time jobs, and part-time jobs were also harder to find in May. Finding work was more difficult across every kind of job, suggesting a loosening labor market for hourly workers:

Finding 41-50 hours of work per week was also more difficult than in April, though finding regular full-time hours was slightly easier:

As usual, many more Pros worked 30 hours or fewer than wanted to. This gap had been shrinking since January but has started to open up again.

In April we also asked Pros about their overall financial situation. Almost half said they were just making ends meet, and roughly another quarter said they were falling deeper into debt. The rest were more comfortable:

These data emphasize the precarious financial position of hourly workers and the importance of a strong labor market to their financial security..

Recent growth in flexible work

Because flexible work is one of several options that workers might have in the labor market, increases in flexible work may mean decreases in other areas. The following statistics measure differences in shift work booked on the Instawork platform (measured in hours), month over month:

 Regions with the highest growth of flexible work  

 Regions with lowest growth of flexible work  

 1. Lousville, KY

 1. Philadelphia, PA

 2. St. Louis, MO

 2. Austin, TX

 3. Las Vegas, NV

 3. Phoenix, AZ

 4. New York, NY

 4. Indianapolis, IN

 Roles with the highest growth of flexible work  

 Roles with lowest growth of flexible work  

 1. Brand ambassador

 1. Counter staff / cashier

 2. Event server

 2. Food service worker

 3. Bartender

 3. Custodial

 4. Busser

 4. Dishwasher

Demand increased most strongly for hospitality roles including bartenders, event servers, and bussers as events and outdoor dining built towards their annual peak. There was no clear geographical pattern in the growth of flexible work, though Las Vegas continues to be one of the fastest-growing markets over the course of the year.

Technical note: To control for the growth of the Instawork platform, only business locations that have participated for at least two months before the start of the comparison period are included. Changes in hours are included only for roles for which businesses booked shifts during both months.

Demographics of flexible workers

The gender balance on the Instawork platfrorm shifted slightly toward women in May, and the share of Pros identifying as White dropped for the third straight month:

Since a weakening labor market for permanent positions will often hit members of racial and ethnic minorities first, the growing share of these minorities in Instawork's labor supply may be one result of a cooling labor market.

Food service and hospitality

After two months of increases in hourly pay dominating among hospitality businesses on the Instawork platform, the trend may reverse in June:


The streak of increases in hourly pay for several front-of-house roles looks likely to end in June as well, with possible declines for bartenders and bussers:


Pay for line cooks is headed downward in June, but other back-of-house roles are steady:

Custodial and cleaning

Hourly pay for building and grounds cleaning did not continue its upward streak in May, but it is tracking toward a huge turnaround in June. As a reminder, this is one of the most volatile industry groups we track. Custodial pay in particular looks likely to rise for the fourth month in a row:

Manufacturing and production

Businesses in production look likely to keep raising pay in June after two months of widespread increases, though hourly pay for general labor on the Instawork platform may not follow suit:

Retail and sales

The stabilization in pay for retail and sales may be complete in June after a string of months with broad increases since late last year:

Logistics and warehouse

Hourly pay in logistics also looks likely to stabilize in June, though rates for entry-level warehouse shifts are ticking up:

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Methodological appendix

Instawork in-app surveys

Five surveys per month are delivered via the Instawork Pro app. Random samples of Pros who have worked at least one shift in the past 12 months may be shown a one-question survey when they open the details for a shift. No Pro receives more than one survey per month. The surveys continue until they collect 1,000 responses.

The repeating questions on Pros' labor market situations are as follows:

1. Please mark all the kinds of work you will do this week:

  • regular full-time job
  • regular part-time job
  • shifts booked on Instawork
  • other app-based or temporary work
  • no work

2. Please mark all the kinds of work you would like to do each week:

  • regular full-time job
  • regular part-time job
  • shifts booked on Instawork
  • other app-based or temporary work
  • no work

3. In total, how many hours will you work this week at all your jobs?

  • 0-10
  • 11-20
  • 21-30
  • 31-40
  • 41-50
  • 51 or more

4. In total, how many hours would you like to work each week at all your jobs?

  • 0-10
  • 11-20
  • 21-30
  • 31-40
  • 41-50
  • 51 or more

Instawork PSI (Pay Signal Index)

The PSI gauges the overall direction of changes in hourly pay from month to month, much the way a purchasing managers’ index measures supply chain activity.

To begin, for each month, we measure the average hourly pay offered by each business on our platform for each role in each region. If the business offered shifts for the same role in the same region during the previous month, we record whether the average rose or fell. A rise is recorded as +1, a fall as -1, and no change as 0.

Next we weight this signal by the average number of shifts the business offered for that role across the two months. For example, if the business offered 10 shifts for line cooks in the Houston area during February and 18 shifts for the same role in the same region during March, then the weight would be 14.

We group these weighted signals by the Census Bureau’s occupational categories and take the weighted average for each category. Then we multiply the weighted average by 50 and add it to 50. This yields a PSI between 0 and 100. At 0, the PSI implies that all businesses in the sample offered lower pay. At a PSI of 100, all businesses offered higher pay. At a PSI of 50, businesses that raised or lowered pay did so with equal weight (or loosely, equal numbers of shifts).

At present we cover six major occupational categories. These are the numbers of workers they represented in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ counts of hourly workers in 2023, and their shares of the total reported number of hourly workers:

 Occupational category

 Workers (1,000s)

 Share of hourly workers




 Food preparation and serving  









 Building and grounds cleaning  



To create a national PSI, we calculate a weighted average by weighting the PSI for each occupational category by its share of hourly workers above. The resulting national PSI represents occupational categories that cover roughly 41% of hourly workers in the American labor force.

Indexed trends in hourly pay

Sample selection for our pay trends is similar to the method for the PSI. Businesses that book shifts for the same role in the same region during consecutive months are the units of observation. For each pair of months, we calculate the change in the average hourly pay offered for the given role in the given region. Examples of roles are line cooks, forklift drivers, and custodial staff.

Next, as for the PSI, we weight the changes in pay by the average number of shifts across the two months. Then we calculate a weighted average of the changes at a national level for each role. To create an indexed trend, we have chosen July 2022 as the starting point, where the indexed hourly pay for each role is set to 100. We then use the monthly changes to map the trend from August 2022 onward.

At present we publish the indexed trends in hourly pay for 14 of the roles staffed on our platform:

 Indexed trends in hourly pay available for the following roles:


 General Labor



 Concession or stand workers

 Line cook

 Counter staff or cashier

 Prep cook




 Warehouse associate - entry level

 Event server

 Warehouse associate - intermediate