Self-employed workers skew employment statistics

Published November 5, 2006

With untold thousands of self-employed among the ranks of contractors and tradespersons, official state figures purporting small job decreases in the construction industry may be deceptive.

"We wouldn't have any way of capturing those people," said Sue Patterson, of the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. "They're kind of outside the box."

Neither state nor county agencies say they keep track of the unemployed self-employed.

Trade unions are watching.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 915 said its membership grew 5 percent in the last year, and the union is "massively organizing," said Jon Dehmel, IBEW 915's business agent.

With an estimated 85 percent of electricians non-unionized, the market slide could yield rich pickings for Dehmel and his ilk.

"We are growing very quickly, almost doubled in a year and a half," said Joe Newton, of the 600-strong Florida Carpenters Regional Council. "We definitely are trying to find ways to increase our membership. We get involved in the school system, job fairs, career days, chambers of commerce."