Part-Time Worker Lament: What Recovery? Credit: Job Search Image via Shutterstock

Although the stock market has reached record levels in the past months, the economic recovery has not yet been felt by all Americans. New research has found that part-time workers are still having a hard time finding full-time jobs.

Researchers found that involuntary part-time employment grew more in the past five years— 2007 to 2012— than any other five-year span since the 1970s. In that time involuntary part-time employment among women rose to 7.8 percent from 3.6 percent.  Men, on the other hand, saw involuntary part-time employment rise to 5.9 percent from 2.4 percent. The researchers defined involuntary part-time workers as employees working fewer than 35 hours a week because they are searching for full-time jobs.     

Unfortunately for those part timers looking for full-time work, those numbers have not moved much even as the unemployment rate has dropped in recent years.

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"Part-time employment increased dramatically during the recent recession for both men and women," said study researcher Rebecca Glauber, assistant professor of sociology and a faculty fellow at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute.

 "Individuals work part time for many reasons. Some do so to care for children and elderly family members. Others do so because they are in school. Yet others work part time because they cannot find full-time work. This latter reason may be a cause of concern for both workers and employers, as well as those interested in the long-term productivity and efficiency of the United States economy."

That's because the researchers found that involuntary part-time workers were much more likely to live in poverty. One in four part-time workers lived in poverty compared to one in 20 full-time workers. On average, female part-time workers earned nearly $32,000 less than full-time counterparts, while male part timers earned $35,000 less.

Additionally, part time workers were also more likely to have spent a portion of the past year unemployed. 

Alleviating those challenges requires a great deal of effort, but the impetus is on policymakers to make those changes, Glauber says.
 

"Policies that increase the quality of part-time positions, such as unemployment insurance for part-time workers, may go far in alleviating the economic penalties associated with involuntary part-time employment," Glauber said.

This research pulled together data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), which is conducted monthly by a household survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

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