Trends In Employment

     I snagged this story a couple of days back:

     Since June 2023, Americans have been increasingly employed in part-time positions, with a subsequent decline in full-time work, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
     The number of Americans working part-time in January grew by 96,000 compared to the previous month, while full-time employment sank by 63,000, according to the BLS. The change in the types of employment follows a trend toward part-time employment that has been increasingly exacerbated since June 2023.
     The number of part-time positions has grown from 26,248,000 in June 2023 to 27,890,000, equating to a more than 1.6 million increase, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED). Over that same time period, the number of workers employed full-time also dropped by over 1.6 million, from 134,787,000 to 133,133.
     “Wherever possible, businesses are eliminating full-time jobs and replacing them with part-time jobs to reduce costs,” E.J. Antoni, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Many firms are also conducting ‘quiet’ layoffs, according to multiple surveys. This involves eliminating a full-time position when the occupant either quits or is fired — the person simply isn’t replaced. The drop in payrolls is the same as if you laid off those people. Meanwhile, the sectors that are still hiring are predominantly bringing on people part-time.”

     If the statistics cited above are accurate, we have a causation analysis to perform. Granted that patterns in employment have been changing since the World Wars, workers’ preference has always seemed to be for full-time employment by a single employer. Stipulate for the purposes of discussion that this is still the case. What, then, would shift employers’ preferences away from full-time employment?

  • Is there less work to be done? Possibly, though not uniformly; some companies are growing, even today.
  • Is there a cost savings in having an army of part-timers rather than full-timers? Perhaps, though the savings from reduced benefits expenses must be measured against the loss of worker efficiency in a part-time environment.
  • Does part-time employment attract more or better talent? That would come as a surprise.
  • Are there any hard-to-quantify advantages? Smaller plants, perhaps?

     The downsides of a part-time-heavy workforce are easier to see:

  • Part-timers will be less loyal to the employer.
  • In most cases, part-timers must arrive already trained.
  • Full-timers and part-timers don’t collaborate as well as full-timers alone.
  • Management must ensure that part-timers’ hours-commitment is being honored.

     No doubt there are others. But what does the bottom line say? Would employers rather have full-timers despite the overt increment in cost? Or is there a real savings in having a heavily part-time workforce?



    • Roll-aid on February 10, 2024 at 12:11 PM

    A fair assessment.  During my working career, I myself have been on both sides.  I was a full-time regular employee working with part-timers (two ladies who job-shared a support position – and it worked out well for all).  I have also been a part-time exempt W-2 employee with full-time hourly direct reports wended in ’23, when I went to full-time retirement, thank goodness.

    In discussing this topic, one can very easily get pulled into a briar patch of sundry sub-topics, such as hourly vs exempt and the role of “contractors and/or consultants” vs “part-time employees”.  Tax and labor laws – federal and state – have done much to muddy the waters here, not to mention the view of many unions on the matter.  In other words, the statistics attempt to quantify a very complicated reality and reflect the way the job market reacts to the aforementioned external drivers.  Labor of all types is not, and has not been for many years, anything close to a free market.

    How many  “part-time” wage earners are actually 1099 contractors?  How many are hourly staffers getting a W-2 an who work less than the statutory number of hours required to be classified as “full time”?  (30 hours?)  I don’t know if the government statistics break out the numbers by tax status.  These laws and regulations have a huge impact on people and organizations and the resulting size of the various classes of people.  Witness the union’s attempt at the state and federal level to outlaw contractors and force workers into joining a union and become W-2 employees.    The listing of pros and cons may well shift depending on the situation and so are at best gross indications of trends.

    The only thing I would add to your list is related to the “loyalty” topic.   Security and retention of confidential information along with business continuity planning gets more complicated along several dimensions with a mix of full time vs. part-time staff, however defined.


    • Bob in Idaho on February 10, 2024 at 2:44 PM

    I know that in my field, physical rehabilitation in various settings (hospital, home health, long term care), the only benefit to full-time employee status is health insurance. There are no guaranteed hours, no guarantee that you will be able to use acquired “time off” other than to make up for days they send you home early and no other benefits I can think of. Many therapists work PRN (as needed) at a higher rate of pay and take off when they please. If you have insurance available from other sources PRN is the way to go.

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