'Hidden unemployment': 7.3 million involuntary part time workers

CNN Money features an article that discusses the part time employment situation in America.

Specifically, those who want a full time job but can't find one. These workers are referred to as "involuntary" part time workers and there are more of them at this point in the recovery from the recession than after any other downturn.

Overall U.S. unemployment has fallen steeply in the past year (from 7.2% in October 2013 to 5.8% in October 2014), but too many people can only find part-time positions.

The number of people working part-time involuntarily is more than 50% higher than when the recession began.

There was a similar spike in part-time workers in prior recessions, but it dropped quickly. That's not happening this time around. In fact, some states have seen an increase during the recovery in people languishing in part-time jobs who want something more.

Dead-end jobs: Paige Stevenson is caught in the part-time job trap. She started working six months ago as a legal assistant for 30 hours a week in Annapolis, Maryland, a state where involuntary part-time has doubled since the recession began. She keeps trying to find something full-time.

Stevenson accepted her current position as a "stop-gap" measure because she had been unemployed for a while and wanted to get back into the workforce any way she could. She earns $15 an hour and receives no benefits, but her husband's technician job provides health care for the family.

After taking into account daycare for her 4-year old son, a home mortgage and the cost of living near Washington D.C., she is in debt.

"When you're dealing with part-time jobs, they're basically dead ends," Stevenson, 32, says, "Employers, at least around here, have been asking for the moon and paying zero."

Her story isn't unique. People in part-time jobs are five times more likely than full-time workers to live in poverty. About 75% of part-time workers either live in poverty or are low income, according to a report by Rebecca Glauber, a professor at the University of New Hampshire.

There is also a strong connection between unemployment and part-time work. Often these jobs don't last long.

"They're extremely economically vulnerable," says Glauber. "There's a real worry about those who are employed in relatively low quality, part-time positions."

Hidden Unemployment: Like Stevenson, many part-timers go through periods without a job. Almost 30% of involuntary part-time workers are unemployed for three months or longer in a year, according to Glauber.

A 30 hour workweek is the magic number. Any hours above that and the worker would fall under Obamacare's employer mandate to offer insurance. It's a difficult number to quantify, but one reason for the spike in part time work you would think to be related to Obamacare.

With the workplace participation rate barely above record lows, there are a lot of people who simply can't find full time work. Then there are those workers who are underemployed - stuck in jobs for which they are overqualified. Taken altogether, the "hidden" unemployment number is over 10%.



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