Reclaiming Common Sense

The number of people working multiple part-time jobs has been increasing year over year since the recession... of 2001. We tend to see spikes in dual part-time job workers during the Spring and Winter around the time that people take Easter and Christmas Break.  It is fairly obvious that as people take breaks that more workers are necessary. There also appears to be a "natural level of multiple job holders. This level should rise as the number of people working rises. The question is why are the number of multiple part-time job workers soaring? Could it be as simple as changes in hiring since the adoption of the Affordable Care Act?

Are people working multiple jobs because workforce participation is low or is workforce participation low because of the elevated levels of multiple job workers? Are the people who want one job losing out to the people who already have a job because the people who are already working are employable because they are employed? Confused? I would be surprised if you weren't confused.  Are the patterns of multiple job workers and participation self-reinforcing?

There are a ton of questions. The answers may come during the next few months.

One of the secrets of this economy is the elevated number of people working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Other secrets include an Effective Unemployment Rate that is over 12% and the truth that last year we had ten months of deflation last year.   This writer has written many articles on these topics . The one that may be the most important is the level of multiple job workers and the number of people specifically working two or more part-time jobs. We saw record levels of multiple part-time job holders during February,March, April, and May this year. There was a slight pull-back during June. Even with the recent drops in part-time jobs during the past few months the level of multiple part-time job workers is holding relatively constant.

The level of multiple job workers is an important trend to follow because when they start losing jobs they will not receive unemployment benefits. If they have two part-time jobs neither one of them qualifies for unemployment benefits. If they have two full-time jobs, or a full-time job and a part-time job, they will not qualify for benefits because they still will have one job. If they do not qualify for unemployment benefits then we will not see first-time unemployment claims rise. The only place we will see the number of unemployed rise may be in the Jobs Report, and that is only if they have one seasonal job or if they lose both jobs. 

We saw the number of multiple Job holders jump by 131,000 workers during July with the majority of the jump happening with the people who work two part-time jobs.  We have nearly 2 million job holders who work two part-time jobs. This is not quite as high as we saw last October, November and December or this March, April or May. It does not matter if you are discussing the month to month change or the year to year change, both jumped this past month. Note that the number of people working a part-time job and a full-time job dropped month to month while it increased year to year. Also note that the calculated category of working a primary part-time job and secondary full-time job jumped by 96,000 workers. his is not an official category. It is the difference between the combination of the other three categories of multiple job workers and the total job holders number: 


Multiple Jobholders - FRED data - Both Part-time.