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In our opinion: Many workers only have part-time, temporary employment

Published: Wednesday, July 17 2013 10:29 a.m. MDT

As of now, only 58.7 percent of the country's adult population is in the workforce, and less than half of Americans have full-time jobs.

Jim Cole, Associated Press

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The nation seems to be repeatedly reminded that its economy is recovering, and yet unemployment officially has been at 7.5 percent or above for 54 weeks, longer than any period since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking joblessness. Even those gloomy stats don't tell the whole depressing story.

As of now, only 58.7 percent of the country's adult population is in the workforce, and less than half of Americans have full-time jobs. A record 28 million people in the United States are working part-time, and 2.7 million workers only have temporary employment. Indeed, it's quite telling that the nation's largest employer after Wal-Mart is Kelly Services, a temp agency.

Put simply, the jobs don't seem to be coming back any time soon.

This so-called economic recovery is predicated on a significant shift from full-time to part-time and temporary work. It also represents a massive exodus of workers from the labor market altogether. Currently, the BLS estimates just over 97 million citizens are employed full-time in the private sector, yet they are now outnumbered by the 101 million people receiving some form of government food subsidies. That represents almost a third of the nation's population.

The Obama administration attempted to stimulate the economy by means of massive government spending, but that failed to achieved its stated objective. Since then, the president has tried to highlight positive economic news, but his administration has done little or nothing to address to the structural changes in the job market that its policies have helped to create. In practical terms, much of what it has done has made the problems worse, and the Affordable Care Act is likely to continue that trend.

The employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act creates a disincentive for business to hire full-time workers, which accounts for the burgeoning number of part-timers. The president's recently announced executive actions to fight global warming threaten to make it harder for the nation's energy industry to be profitable, particularly with regard to coal production, while at the same time doing little or nothing to affect global temperatures. While health care reform and combating climate change are noble aspirations, the methods being used to accomplish those goals are creating significant obstacles to long-term economic health.

Americans are resilient. The current record stretch of unemployment doesn't have to be permanent, but a lack of permanent jobs is a real problem. The nation shouldn't be willing to accept a temporary solution.

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