Monthly Labor Market Report: Short-term strengthening and medium-term uncertainty

Key points

  • Data from surveys of Instawork Pros suggest a stronger labor market than in December but a muted outlook for 2024
  • Hourly pay in most roles is steady or falling as the supply of flexible labor continues to increase
  • With the holiday season finished, demand for flexible labor from large events is propelling the market in hospitality
  • As logistics providers continue to recover from overhiring, manufacturing is leading the demand for flexible labor in the goods sector

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.

Starting this month, we are presenting reorganized, rebalanced, and re-indexed statistics with July 2022 as their base, for greater ease of use.

The labor market as a whole looked steady in January, with some strengthening reported by our Pros in our labor market surveys. Businesses raised and lowered pay in roughly equal numbers. Pay raises are expected to pick up slightly in February:

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.

In January, our Pros had a somewhat easier time finding full-time and part-time jobs, but there was more scarcity in other forms of temporary work besides shifts on the Instawork platform:

Accordingly, Pros had an easier time finding more than 40 hours of work per week in January. There was increasing difficulty for Pros who wanted to work 31-40 hours. The only note of caution came from Pros working 30 hours or fewer – as in December, many more Pros had these hours than wanted them:

In January we also asked Pros about their outlook for the labor market in 2024. A third were uncertain about their reply, and slightly more expected a weaker labor market than those expecting greater ease in finding jobs:

These results jive with economists' outlook for a mildly weakening labor market. But if the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates and slows its quantitative tightening campaign in the first half of the year, the labor market might still strengthen again.

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. Raleigh-Durham, NC

 1. Washington, D.C.

 2. San Antonio, TX

 2. Nashville, TN

 3. Bay Area, CA

 3. Phoenix, AZ

 4. Atlanta, GA

 4. Philadelphia, PA

 Roles with the highest growth of flexible work  

 Roles with lowest growth of flexible work  

 1. Concession / Stand Worker

 1. Bartender

 2. Food Service Worker

 2. Event Server

 3. Brand Ambassador

 3. Warehouse - Intermediate

 4. Barista

 4. Event Setup and Takedown

Shifts related to parties and catered events grew less quickly in January during the post-holiday lull. By contrast, shifts for large events ramped up with winter spectator sports and the football playoffs in full swing. Shift volumes resumed strong growth in Atlanta and other southern markets as well.

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 share of men among Pros working shifts rose again in January, as did the share of Pros who identified as Hispanic/Latino, which is near its all-time high:

Food service and hospitality

After a long, steep uphill climb during the past few years, hourly pay in food service and hospitality is finally stabilizing and even declining in some roles. More businesses are poised to lower pay in February, as in the previous two months:


Hourly pay rates on the Instawork platform for front-of-house roles are stable or gently falling:


The same is true for back-of-house roles, though pay here is rather steadier and less volatile:

Custodial and cleaning

Hourly pay for cleaning roles has been sliding in recent months. Custodial pay may stabilize, but the overall expectation is for more declines:

Manufacturing and production

The uptick in some manufacturing industries that began last year is set to continue next month:

Retail and sales

Sales roles are in demand, but any upturn in pay may be more representative of roles like merchandiser and brand ambassador (not pictured here) rather than cashier and concessions:

Logistics and warehouse

Demand for high-skilled workers has pushed pay skyward for intermediate warehouse roles, and there are mixed signals for the near future. Entry-level roles continue to have stable pay thanks to ever growing labor supply:

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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