The part-time work issue

There are assertions that more people who have jobs are now working part-time. A couple of key questions about this: first, is it true, and second, if so, then why is it that part-time work is on the rise? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Good questions, and number one, yes, it is true. We look at part-time employment as a percentage of all employment. It has gone up but perhaps not as much as many people would think.

“It was 17 percent before the recession. It’s now 20 percent. The biggest increases have been for young workers, those between the ages of 16 to 24, and adult workers, those between 25 and 54 who have a high school education or less. We’ve actually seen a decline in part-time work for women, particularly those with a high school degree or more.

“Now surveys show that people are working more part-time because they can’t find full-time work. So for many people, this is not a voluntary choice. It’s something they’ve had to do because they can’t find the right jobs.

“Now some people are pointing to the Affordable Care Act — some call it Obamacare — that does impose some costs on employers if they hire people for a certain number of hours. So maybe employers are keeping the number of hours below that. We’ll have to wait and see. There’s no real good evidence right now of how much effect that’s having.

“But there are other things that are at work here. I think, particularly, the placement of people — workers with machines and technology — primarily in what’s called routine-based work. So this is a complicated issue, but there is no question more people now are working part-time.”

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