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People are earning more from side gigs and needing them less

Side hustlers are hustling a little less but making more when they do.

About 36% of U.S. adults say they make extra money from a side job beyond their main source of income, according to a survey the consumer finance platform Bankrate released Wednesday. That’s down from 39% last year, when side-hustlers were earning a bit less. The average side gig now nets $891 a month, up 10% since 2023 — well ahead of inflation.

The findings add up to “a more positive view” of the side-hustle economy, said Ted Rossman, Bankrate’s senior credit card analyst. But he cautioned that “things still aren’t great.”

“About twice as many people are side hustling now versus 2017,” Rossman said, “and it’s alarming that even in a good job market so many people need a secondary source of income.” Even so, the latest survey data looks like “progress” as inflation cools, he said.

The Bankrate findings come one day before the closely watched consumer price index will deliver a fresh inflation snapshot for June, marking two years since the latest bout of price increases peaked at 9.1%. Economists expect annual inflation to have cooled to 3.1% last month from 3.3% in May, and the rate has barely budged since last summer. 

But workers’ pay has changed for the better, relative to prices.

Average hourly earnings rose 3.9% last month since the year before, federal data shows. And while the labor market is cooling down, there are still more openings than job-seekers looking to fill them after a long-feared wave of mass layoffs failed to materialize.

Dreon Owens recently took on a side project on top of a full-time job paying $100,000 a year.Dreon Owens

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers that the economy no longer looks overheated and “the labor market appears to be fully back in balance.”

A little over half of side-hustlers started gigging in 2022, when inflation was running much hotter, Bankrate found. Last year, people with side jobs were more likely to rely on them to subsidize daily living costs than to fund discretionary spending like travel or dining out (33% and 27%, respectively). But today, those shares are roughly equal (36% and 37%).

Dreon Owens, a 32-year-old who lives in Brooklyn, New York, isn’t among those easing up on side-hustling this year.

After scraping by with side projects since getting laid off during the pandemic, Owens finally landed a full-time position managing a housing nonprofit group in late 2022. But in May he took on a human resources consulting contract that he said brings in as much as $2,500 a month on top of the $100,000 annual salary from his day job.

“We’ve been beat over the head and kind of gooped into paying these extra prices when it wasn’t necessary,” Owens said, echoing concerns about so-called greedflation, in which some consumer advocates have accused corporations of hiking prices more than their own costs have risen.

“Additional income is always very helpful under this good old system of capitalism,” he said.

Consumers increasingly expect inflation to creep down further in the next 12 months, a New York Fed report found Monday. But consumer sentiment has remained tepid at best this year and many household budgets are still under stress.

After Owens’ father died last fall, he has been sending money home to help out his mother and younger siblings. But his application for a New York City housing program that helps residents find affordable rentals recently moved forward. He’s eager to leave the three-bedroom apartment he shares with two roommates, where his chunk of monthly rent comes to $1,800, but he’s also preparing to pay at least $500 more to live alone in a studio or one-bedroom.

With his freelance gig, Owens said, “I have the ability to hang with my friends, travel a little bit, go back home to see my family without having to cower in a corner thinking: Should I do this? Can I afford this? It brings about that sense of relief.”

This post appeared first on NBC NEWS

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