Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Is Involuntary Part-Time Work Here to Stay?

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Is Involuntary Part-Time Work Here to Stay?

Article excerpt

New research suggests that the share of workers who want to work more but can't find full-time jobs may remain elevated even as the economy improves. In "Involuntary part-time work: here to stay?" (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Economic Letter, 2015-19, June 8, 2015), economists Rob Valletta and Catherine van der List wrote that the number of involuntary part-timers (those working part time for economic reasons rather than by choice) rose sharply after the Great Recession, and in the years since has stayed relatively large even as the unemployment rate itself has dropped. Currently about 1 out of 4 part-time workers is an involuntary part-time worker.

Rob Valletta and Catherine van der List's analysis indicates that a substantial part of the increase is related to the business cycle; however, structural components such as changes in industry composition, general wage levels, and population demographics have also contributed to the increase. The economists identify specific changes in labor market characteristics, such as more service-industry employment, higher wages for hourly employees, and an aging workforce.

Valletta and van der List emphasize that both structural change and cyclical unemployment have led to an increase of demand for part-time workers in certain industries. This increase helps explain the uptick in involuntary part-time workers. …

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