Workers no longer have to settle for part-time work | Work

Part-time work has become much less popular, both with job seekers and employers.

The number of workers working part-time for economic reasons – because they can’t find full-time jobs or because their employer has cut their hours – hit a 20-year low of 3.6 million in June, according to Labor Department data. That’s a 25% drop from June 2019, before the pandemic.

These part-time workers for economic reasons, as the Labor Department classifies them, now make up just 2.2% of the total U.S. labor force, a historic low in data dating back to 1955.

A big part of the reason is the incredibly tight labor market.

Typically, there are twice as many unemployed people looking for work as there are job vacancies, forcing some job seekers to settle for part-time employment part-time when they want a full-time position. Today, it’s almost exactly the opposite: there are twice as many job vacancies as there are unemployed job seekers.

While many employers preferred the flexibility of having a staff of mostly part-time workers, they now see the benefit of offering full-time work, including reduced recruitment and training expenses due to the high turnover rate.

“There are all sorts of productivity benefits to using more full-time workers,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist for job search firm ZipRecruiter. “It has huge retention benefits. Many companies are realizing [one way] if their hiring issues are resolved, that’s if their retention issues are resolved.”

There are now 1.8 million more full-time workers than before Covid and 2.4 million fewer part-time workers, Pollak said. But it is not workers’ attitudes towards part-time work that have changed, it is their influence on the labor market: they no longer have to settle for the part-time work they could have taken in the past.

“About 90% of job seekers would prefer full-time jobs,” Pollak said. “In a tight labor market, employers no longer have any other means of attracting candidates. Offering full-time jobs is a way to make your offer more attractive.”

Companies that preferred to use part-time workers became accustomed to being able to easily scale up or down the amount of work they had available based on their volume of business, Pollak said. In some cases, they didn’t have to offer as many benefits such as health insurance or paid vacations to their part-time staff.

“It can work if there’s a constant supply of new job applicants,” Pollak said. “But some companies have exhausted the supply of available workers they can hire, so this is not a workable model.”

Most part-time workers take a job because it fits their schedule. And in the 20 years before the pandemic, part-time workers who chose this option outnumbered those who worked part-time for economic reasons by a margin of about three to one. The drop in the number of people working part-time by choice in June was down just 3% from June 2019. The much larger drop in the number of people having to accept part-time jobs when they wanted full-time jobs means that ratio is now almost six to one.

Additionally, the number of multi-job workers fell 7% in June from pre-pandemic levels in June 2019. But that’s a slight increase from earlier this year and from readings from some previous years. Pollak said multi-jobbers typically increase, not decrease, during a strong job market.

“People typically work multiple jobs when they have the opportunity, rather than when they need to,” she said.

Pollak said she doesn’t know if this trend of more full-time work and less part-time work will last if the U.S. economy falls into a recession. This could turn the current labor shortage into job losses while employers experience a slowdown in business.

“Perhaps it’s another one of those things that the minute there’s some slack in the job market and companies see their revenues go down, there’s going to be a return to what we’ve seen before. “, she said.


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