Monthly Labor Market Report: Several signs of slackness

Key points

  • Surveys of Instawork Pros suggest increasing slack in the labor market, with less availability of full-time work
  • Pay continues to rise for some hospitality roles, which have easily outpaced industrial roles over the past year
  • Most Instawork Pros prefer to start shifts on weekdays, but there are Pros who prefer nights and weekends as well

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.

Several signs point to a weakening labor market, including stable or falling hourly pay, lower availability of full-time work, and increasing shares of women and racial/ethnic minorities working shifts on the Instawork platform. Hourly pay had been fairly stable in August and September across the platform, but October may bring a decline:

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.

Here is the distribution of Pros by the jobs they worked up through the reference week (18 September 2023) for the past month:

The shares of Pros with full-time, part-time, and other app-based or temporary work all fell in September, while the share completing Instawork shifts rose. Yet the share seeking full-time jobs rose, creating the biggest gap between actual and preferred full-time work since April:

So morePros wanted to work full-time, but fewer of them actually had full-time positions, a sign of a weakening labor market. Pros continued to work more hours, however, with the share completing 30 hours or less falling to the lowest in our data to date:

By contrast, preferences for hours worked in September were fairly steady, albeit with slightly fewer Pros preferring not to work at all:

Overall, Pros were able to find the hours they wanted, but not always in the type of work they wanted. The preference for more hours could be driven by continuing concerns about prices and higher interest rates.

In September we also asked Pros when they most preferred to start a shift for in-person hourly work:

Weekdays were preferred by 80% of Pros, with 50% of the overall total preferring to start on weekday mornings. The question did not specify that the shifts had to be with Instawork. Nights were the least popular time to start shifts, but about 1 in 8 Pros still preferred them.

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. Inland Empire, CA

 1. Richmond, VA

 2. Columbus, OH

 2. New Orleans, LA

 3. Cincinnati, OH

 3. Los Angeles, CA

 4. Dallas, TX

 4. Charlotte, NC

 Roles with the highest growth of flexible work  

 Roles with lowest growth of flexible work  

 1. Food service worker

 1. Merchandiser

 2. Custodial

 2. Housekeeper

 3. Busser

 3. Counter staff/cashier

 4. Event server

 4. Concession/stand worker

Demand for food service workers continued to climb in September, while demand for roles typically associated with large events – concession/stand workers and counter staff/cashiers – had weaker growth after a strong August. Flexible work also grew strongly in two of our Ohio markets.

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

Trends that began early in the year continued in September, with a lower share of men and a higher share of Black/African-American workers completing shifts via the Instawork platform:

Workers from racial and ethnic minorities have historically been among the first to feel a weakening in the labor market, and their supply of labor on the Instawork platform may indicate a narrowing of other options.

Pay Signal Index

As expected, hourly pay fell at the majority of businesses posting shifts for building and grounds cleaning in September after a strong gain in August. This trend is expected to continue in October, according to advance bookings on the Instawork platform. Businesses staffing hospitality roles were more likely to raise than lower pay in September, with hourly rates expected to stabilize in October. Pay for sales-related roles may fall next month, in line with the weakening demand for concession and cashier roles cited above:

Indexed trends in hourly pay

Hourly pay rose in September for the majority of hospitality roles, and it is expected to continue climbing in October for several roles, including line cooks and prep cooks, in October. In the meantime, pay for general labor, custodial, and warehouse roles has stayed stable and may even decline slightly in October. Over the past year, increases in pay for hospitality roles have easily outpaced increases in pay for industrial roles, in line with the overall tightness of the labor market in each sector.

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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 2022, 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  



 Personal care and service



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 44% 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 2021 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 2021 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:


 Event setup and takedown


 General labor

 Concession or stand workers

 Line cook

 Counter staff or cashier

 Prep cook




 Warehouse associate - entry level

 Event server

 Warehouse associate - intermediate