BOSTON — In between driving shifts, James Little is sitting outside a hamburger joint in Phoenix grabbing a quick bite to eat before firing back up one of the 14 different ride-sharing apps he works for.
"I love what I'm doing. This is the best job in the world," Little said.
The 40-year-old travels to different cities across the country making a living off the gig economy. But high gas prices are hitting his profits hard right now. It's a problem Uber and Lyft drivers across the country are grappling with.
"I gotta have gas to make my car run to make money," he said.
Erin Hatton is a professor at the University of Buffalo. Her research is centered around the gig economy.
"I think the effects are huge for so many of these workers," Hatton said during a recent Zoom interview.
She says there are two types of App Sharing workers. Those who are trying to make a living and those who are doing it on the side and can sit out high gas prices for a bit.
Either way, there’s not a big sense of community for drivers.
"Since they’re not in a workplace they don’t have a group of workers to talk to, to commiserate with," Hatton explained.
It’s hard to track how many RideShare drivers have left their jobs this year. Since most are independent contractors. But they make up a huge section of the labor force. About 57 million people are working in the gig economy.
"If you’re trying to make a living you have to contend with gas prices, skyrocketing," Hatton added.
But there may be another reason why many rideshare drivers are reconsidering their line of work. As tax-filing deadlines approach, many workers who may be filing for the first time are realizing just how much they owe.
"After tax time when you’re responsible for the employer and employee share of taxes. In addition to the wear and tear on your car. So the true cost of this line of work becomes clearer and clearer," Hatton said.