Unemployment figures may indicate a recovering job market, but those numbers aren't telling the whole story. New research from PayScale shows that many of those who are working feel they are under-employed.
Overall, 46 percent of workers said they are in jobs that don't leverage their education, or are seeking full-time work but only working part-time. Specifically, 76 percent of those who are under-employed are not using their education or training, while 24 percent are working only part-time but would like full-time work.
"The danger of under-employment is that if you're not using the skills you learned and want to develop, those skills will atrophy, leaving you less able to compete for the jobs you actually want," the study's authors wrote. "Additionally, under-employed workers begin to disengage from their jobs, resulting in subpar performance, further damaging future job prospects."
Education appears to be a large factor in under-employment. While the research revealed some level of under-employment regardless of education levels, the numbers are highest for workers with lower levels of education. [See Related Story: 'Under-employment' Poses Particular Challenges for Young Workers]
The level of under-employment is highest for employees who took some college courses, but never graduated. Nearly 60 percent of those workers are under-employed, with 52 percent of employees who graduated high school or earned their GED also failing to achieve the employment status they seek.
However, earning a post-secondary degree is no guarantee of working in a job that utilizes all of your skills. The study found that 40 percent of workers with an MBA are under-employed, with almost 90 percent of those saying it's because they're not using their education or training in their current jobs.
Doctors have the lowest level of under-employment; just 30 percent of those with an M.D. report being under-employed.
Katie Bardaro, PayScale's lead economist, said the importance of education and the persistence of the gender gap are the two underlying themes in the research.
"The report notes under-employment decreases as educational attainment increases, Bardaro said in a statement. "Also, in addition to a pay gap and an opportunities gap, we see the gender gap materialize in under-employment as well. Women report a greater percentage of under-employment than their male counterparts."
The study revealed that some jobs report a significantly higher under-employment rate than others. The 20 most common jobs among under-employed workers are:
- System support technician
- Front-end supervisor
- Dog groomer and bather
- Assistant warehouse manager
- Yard foreman
- Restaurant supervisor
- Office assistant/database administrator
- Program assistant for nonprofit organizations
- Assistant restaurant manager – casual dining
- Shipping manager
- Assistant office manager
- Hotel, motel or resort desk clerk
- Cafe manager
- Systems technician (computer)
- Membership coordinator
- Dog kennel manager
- Project specialist
- Senior personal banker
- Bilingual customer-service representative
- Meat wrapper
The research found that some college majors also have higher levels of under-employment than others. The five most common under-employed college majors are bachelor's degrees in physical-education teaching, human services, illustration, and criminal justice; and master's degrees in criminal justice.
"Students choose their educational paths for all kinds of reasons, including enjoying the field of study or preparing for a dream job that requires a specific degree," the study's authors wrote. "No one would ever suggest you modify your decisions based solely on occupational outlook. But it's never a bad idea to go into a years-long educational commitment armed with information."
The study was based on data from 962,956 workers collected between 2014 and 2016.