Switching jobs can raise pay in flexible work, too

Key takeaways

  • Hourly pay for flexible workers who have been active on the Instawork platform changed by less than the national average
  • Workers who switched roles and/or industries attained higher hourly pay rates
  • Increases were especially high for workers switching into industries with labor shortages

As we've written here before, flexible work can offer careers paths in similar ways to the rest of the labor market. Instawork Pros have been steadily moving up the value chain within their occupations. But the labor market is also an enormous matching exercise, where workers and businesses are looking for the most productive – and thus the most lucrative – opportunities to collaborate. In this analysis, we take a first look at matching over time with some simple statistics.

A wide range of outcomes

Our point of comparison is the highest hourly rate that a Pro earned within a month. We compare that rate for the same worker in October 2021 and October 2022. We want to find out how the rate changed, and whether switching jobs affected the changes.

In our sample as a whole, the maximum hourly rate earned by a Pro rose 1.6%, on average, between October 2021 and October 2022. This rise contrasted with an increase of 5.5% in the average hourly wages for production and non-supervisory workers in the economy as a whole. There are a few likely explanations:

  1. Covid-19 prevalence was roughly double in the earlier period, and severity was also higher, causing urgent demand for labor and higher pay on our platform.
  2. The labor supply on our platform has more than doubled since October 2021, with roughly 2 million more Pros in network helping to keep pay stable.
  3. As the pandemic receded, there was less urgent demand for workers, so rates did not have to be as high to ensure shifts were filled.

The median change in pay was actually negative, as some Pros gained big increases to their hourly rates:

9 Nov 2022 rate change histogram

What interests us in particular, though, is the differences in the changes for Pros who switched roles and/or industries.

The benefits of switching

Our earlier research, linked above, showed that Pros could obtain higher hourly rates by moving up the value chain with occupations, e.g. from prep cook to line cook. To find Pros who switched jobs to obtain a better match, we can look for those who not only changed roles but also changed industries.

Here is a segmentation showing the experiences of the four groups defined by these two possible changes. Each cell in the table shows the average change in the maximum hourly rate between October 2021 and October 2022, as well as the share of the sample represented:


Percentage changes in maximum hourly payNo change of industryChange of industryNo change of role-3.4%

(18% of sample)


(19% of sample)

Change of role


(20% of sample)


(43% of sample)

The biggest difference in the average changes here, between Pros who stayed put and Pros who switched both role and industry, is a whopping 9.0%. As we found in our earlier research, a change of role within the same industry can give a Pro's hourly pay a boost. But a change of industry can also make a substantial – and additive – difference to pay.

Part of this effect may come from sectoral factors in the economy. Pay has been rising this year in the leisure and hospitality sector, which still has a million fewer people employed across the United States than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Among Pros who switched industries, 87% switched to catering, food service, restaurants, and venues. These Pros' pay rose by an average of 4.2%, compared with 1.3% for Pros who switched into other industries.

But these factors are unlikely to tell the whole story. We know from experience that Pros sometimes work via our platform even if shifts aren't yet available in their preferred roles. When these shifts do become available, the Pros can make more productive matches. Either way, the movement of Pros on our flexible work platform – whether to fill shortages or to make better matches – helps to improve the overall efficiency of the labor market.


Realtime metrics

These metrics, derived from data aggregated across the Instawork platform, compare the two weeks starting 10/27/2022 to the previous two weeks. To control for the overall growth of the Instawork marketplace, only shifts involving businesses that booked shifts in both periods are included:

  • $0.00 change in hourly pay
  • 0.4% point drop in share of short-notice shifts
  • 0.6 hours rise in hours per existing worker

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