Chuck Burton, Associated Press
If someone wants a full-time job, but can't get one, they often will settle for a part-time job. These are the "involuntary part-time workers," and the recent rise in their numbers has some experts worried.
The government reported that there were 288,000 new jobs added in June. That was the silver lining. Paul Davidson at USA Today wrote about the dark cloud: "The number of hours employees are working? That's a different story. Among the few worrisome signs in (the) generally encouraging employment report was a sharp rise in the number of part-time workers who prefer full-time jobs. The total jumped by 275,000 to 7.5 million, the Labor Department said."
In May, the number of involuntary part-timers dropped 196,000, so this jump is a bit of a surprise and the highest this year, Davidson wrote.
Economist Bernard Baumohl told Davidson that the better the economy gets, employees should be putting in more time on the job. "Instead, (Baumohl) notes, the economy has been running in place this year."
Ylan Q. Mui at The Washington Post says economists have a "gnawing fear" that the dropping unemployment rate (6.1 percent) and other good indications provide "false comfort" in light of the part-time workers numbers.
Ylan looks at the increase of the total number of part-time workers, voluntary and involuntary. There were 1 million more part-timers in June, bringing the total up to 27 million (7.5 million of whom are, as we have seen, only biding their time looking for full-time employment). "That has led to worries that the workforce may be becoming permanently polarized," Ylan says, "with part-timers stuck on one side and full-time workers on the other."
"What we're seeing is a growing trend of low-quality part-time jobs," Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Work Week Initiative, told Ylan. "It's creating this massive unproductive workforce that is unable to productively engage in their lives or in the economy."
Arnold Ahlert, writing for FrontPageMag.com puts the number of part-time jobs in context: "Overall, America now has 118 million full-time jobs compared to 28 million part-time jobs, according to the BLS. Thus, 23.7 percent, or nearly one-out-of-every four Americans, is working part-time."
Samuel Rines at The National Interest blog tells why more part-time jobs doesn't mean an improving economy: "Part-time jobs — with lower wages, less stability, and higher turnover — are less desirable than full-time ones for an economy. There are fewer fringe benefits associated with part-time work, and the jobs are generally considered to be of lower quality. This leads to slower consumption growth than would normally be associated with similar levels of employment, a labor force that is likely to be much more volatile in future downturns, and workers with lower levels of on the job skills. A part-time economy simply does not have the economic robustness of a full-time one."