September 23, 2019

Part-Time Work Becomes Full-Time Wait for Better Job

In March, 7.6 million Americans who want more hours were stuck in part-time jobs, about the same as a year earlier and three million more than there were when the recession began at the end of 2007.

These almost invisible underemployed workers do not count toward the standard jobless rate of 7.6 percent. A broader measure, which includes the involuntary part-timers as well as people who want to work but have stopped looking, stands at 13.8 percent.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with people taking part-time jobs if they want them,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago. “The problem is that people are accepting part-time pay because they have no other choice.”

Even for those who have been able to take advantage of the better job market, the opportunities have not been good. Since the economy began to recover almost four years ago, hiring has been concentrated in relatively low-wage service sectors, like retailing, home health care, and food preparation, and in contingent jobs at temporary-hiring companies. For example, nearly one out of every 13 jobs is at a restaurant, bar or other food-service establishment, a record high.

Household incomes have been stagnant throughout the recovery, and actually fell in the latest report, according to Sentier Research. As a result, economists and policy makers have been expressing concerns about not only the pace of hiring but the quality of new jobs as well.

“It’s important to look at the types of jobs that are being created,” Sarah Bloom Raskin, a member of the Federal Reserve Board, said in a recent speech. “Those jobs will directly affect the fortunes and challenges of households and neighborhoods as well as the course of the recovery.”

While increases in part-time and temporary work can sometimes be an early sign that employers will soon take on more permanent hiring, many workers have been trapped in such jobs far longer than they had anticipated.

Part-time work rose rapidly in the recession and early parts of the recovery, and it has not let up much. Today, 19.1 percent of workers say they usually work part time, defined as fewer than 35 hours a week, versus 16.9 percent when the recession started.

Essentially all of the gains in part-time employment have been among people who are reluctantly working fewer hours because of slack business conditions for their employer or an inability to find a full-time job.

“It was a relief just to find something,” said Amie Crawford, 56, of Chicago. After four months looking for a new job as an interior designer, which she had been for 30 years before the recession, she accepted a position as a part-time cashier at a quick-service health-food cafe called Protein Bar.

She keeps asking for more hours, but her manager’s response is always the same.

“He tells me, ‘I try to give you as many hours as I can, but everybody wants as many hours as they can,’ ” Ms. Crawford said.

The owner of the company, Matt Matros, said that it was working on giving her more hours, but that each location had a limited need for cashiers. He added that Ms. Crawford had the opportunity to get trained in other skills if she wanted to advance or take on other positions.

Holding a part-time job when a full-time one is desired is frustrating for workers, and not only because fewer hours means less income. Like temp workers, part-timers are also less likely to get benefits and are more likely to be stuck with unpredictable schedules that make it hard to plan for child care, transportation or even a second part-time job.

“I’ll be on the schedule from this time to this time, so I expect to work from this time to this time,” Ms. Crawford said. “But because on a particular day, who knows, it’s snowing, raining, or people just didn’t come in today for whatever reason, they start cutting people. So I get sent home in the middle of my shift.”

Part-timers also generally earn less per hour than their full-time counterparts.

“The only remaining legal form of discrimination in the labor market is against part-time workers,” said John Schmitt, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal research organization. “You can hire part-time workers and full-time workers doing the same job, and you’re allowed to pay them different money and different benefits.”

There are multiple reasons for an increased reliance on part-timers, primarily continuing low demand and uncertainty about the economy.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/20/business/part-time-work-becomes-full-time-wait-for-better-job.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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