The Corner

Are We Becoming A Part-Time Nation?

The U.S. labor market is weak in terms of jobs provided, but it also suffers from serious under-employment problems. Last week’s data from the Department of Labor’s monthly survey of households showed that the economy added 288,000 full-time jobs since last December — which may seem like a lot, except that it pales in comparison to the 692,000 part-time job gains during this time. In other words, in 2013, 70 percent of the jobs created were part-time. Here’s a chart:

Interestingly, the December 2012 jobs data do not reflect adjustments for a growing population. When you compare the share of part-time versus full-time job gains since January 2013 for data adjusted to reflect updated population estimates, new part-time jobs amount to 97.7 percent of total new jobs. (Data for part-time jobs can be found in BLS Table A-8, and data for total employment in BLS Table A-1.)

These numbers are very disconcerting. Compounding this problem is Obamacare, which requires employers with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance to all employees or pay a $2,000 penalty per worker. The law, which will increase the cost of current and future employees, defines a full-time job as 30 hours or more per week. As I’ve explained, this gives businesses an incentive to hire more part-time workers and, in fact, we are hearing more and more stories about businesses capping their workers’ time at 30 hours, especially in the retail and fast-food industries.

Here’s a good article on the issue in the Wall Street Journal, with a striking chart about the “29ers.”

 

 

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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