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Freelance nation: One-third of U.S. workers are freelancers

When the Labor Department releases its latest jobs report on Friday, it will likely show that the economy added about 200,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate remained near 6.2%. What it won't show is the extent to which many workers are no longer on payroll but self-employed as freelancers.

The Freelancers Union, a national organization, released a survey today showing that 53 million Americans, or 34% of the country's workforce, are freelancers. The trend started "decades ago, then accelerated," says Sara Horowitz, the group's founder and executive director. "Freelancing is everywhere." She calls it a "new normal."

Related: Low wage jobs dominate the U.S. economic recovery

Some say the freelance trend is not the worker's friend and is a result of layoffs, forcing many to find work any way they can. But Horowitz says freelance work is "meaningful independence" -- a "new way" of work that people like because "they can really organize their time [and] have flexibility."

Freelancing gives people a sense of control over their work lives, Horowitz tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. "Workers are saying 'if I'm not going to have an employer that's going to have loyalty to me and if I don't have expenses that are so high, I can actually start to control my life by working freelance in these different ways,'" says Horowitz.

It's particularly popular among millennials, according to the survey which found that 38% of them are freelancing.

Related: Why wages will stagnate for another 14 years

The survey, conducted by independent research firm Edelman Berland, also found there are five key types of freelancers:

  • Independent contractors: 40% (21.1M)

  • Moonlighters: 27% (14.3M)

  • Diversified workers: 18% (9.3M). They combine traditional work with freelance.

  • Temporary workers: 10% (5.5M)

  • Freelance business owners: 5% (2.8M)

Many of them are not officially counted in the government's jobs report, but should be. "There's some work to be done there at the Bureau of Labor Statistics," says Horowitz. She suggests that the government should understand the "nuances" of freelance work, differentiating between one-time gigs and ongoing freelance jobs. It's time "we move on and accept this new economy," says Horowitz.

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