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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has supercharged the freelance economy.

Why it matters: Millions of workers are freelancers by choice, but millions of others are wading into this riskier and less stable way of life because of the pandemic's economic turmoil.

By the numbers: The freelance economy is now worth $1.2 trillion, a 22% increase from 2019, according to a new report from Upwork.

  • There are 59 million freelancers in the U.S. — just over a third of the workforce — and 36% of them do this type of work full-time, up from 28% last year.
  • Two fast-growing freelancer cohorts are parents who are juggling child care and work during the pandemic and Gen Zers, many of whom are learning remotely or taking a year off from college, says Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.
    • 48% of freelancers are caregivers, and half of Gen Zers are freelancing, per the report.

"Freelancers are dealing with the same economy everyone else is dealing with," Ozimek says.

  • While the availability of freelancing gigs has increased in telework-friendly industries like tech and finance, it has slumped in education and entertainment.

The bottom line: In such uncertain times, "freelancing is really flexible for both the workers and the companies," Ozimek says. "They're the first ones in. But then they're also the first ones out. That’s part of the flexibility companies get from it."

Go deeper

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds one of the first significant actions by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
7 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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