Taxi Service Company Payroll Employment Trends in the Ride Sharing Era

by Guy Tauer

March 1, 2019

Taxi was a humorous Emmy award-winning show back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its ensemble cast included Danny Devito, Judd Hirsch, Andy Kaufman, Marilu Henner, and Tony Danza. The show revolved around the office of a taxi company in New York City. Opening credits were played with a looping shot of a taxicab crossing a bridge that seemed to go on forever. Unlike the cab in that opening sequence that kept going into seeming perpetuity, in the era of Lyft and Uber some of those businesses in Oregon have met the end of their own roads. As recently as 2016, there were still about 50 Oregon businesses with covered payroll employment in the cab/taxi service industry. Just two years later there were about 10 fewer firms in this industry.

Oregon has a slightly lower concentration of employment in the taxi service industry than the U.S. overall, as represented by the location quotient of 0.7 – which shows the industry is about 70 percent of the size you’d expect compared to the relative concentration of taxi cab services in the United States. Payroll employment in Oregon’s taxi services companies totaled over 450 in 2001. Just after the official end of the Great Recession in 2010, employment sunk to about 280 jobs. From that point to 2016, employment climbed back to reach about 440 in 2016. Even as the economy continued to grow and most industries continued adding jobs in 2017 and 2018, taxi service employment fell to about 350 in 2017 and remained at that level in 2018. The average wage per job, in real or inflation-adjusted figures, rose from about $20,725 in 2001 to $24,500.
It's difficult to say for certain that the emergence of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are the culprit for the drop in taxi company payroll employment since 2016, but if I was a betting man, I’d place my money on that bet.

One challenge in measuring employment and industry trends in this sector is that there may be many cab drivers who are classified as independent contractors. Those drivers many lease a cab from a taxi company and set their own schedules, etc. In these instances, those drivers might not be employees who would be covered by unemployment insurance, and therefore would not be included in our payroll employment statistics.

So there may be more of an impact on taxi services business from the rise of ride-sharing companies than is being picked up in our payroll employment data.


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