The stunning growth in part-time employment

by on September 6, 2013 at 10:28 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

From Greg Mankiw:

John Lott points out the following: “So far this year there have been 848,000 new jobs. Of those, 813,000 are part time jobs…. To put it differently, an incredible 96% of the jobs added this year were part-time jobs.”

In addition to all of this underemployment, today’s job market report shows the labor force participation rate is down to its lowest level since 1978 (when fewer women wanted to work, of course).  And population growth is outpacing job growth, as indeed it had earlier in the oughties before the financial crisis and recovery.  Perhaps that is the new normal?  (Here are a few graphs from the new numbers.)  Here is a passage from my forthcoming Average is Over:

Those laid off workers have been absorbed, into new jobs, at a much slower than usual rate, following a recession.  They can’t get their old jobs back, even though the worst of the crisis is over and corporate profits are back up.  Most importantly, the new jobs being created are more likely low wage than mid wage.  In essence, the American economy is learning that — for structural reasons — it can’t afford as many mid wage jobs as it used to have.  Businesses will make higher profits by slotting those workers elsewhere, but not back in other high or mid wage jobs, where they had been before.

Monetary policy is fine, and I see no significant costs from having a higher rate of price inflation in the United States, but stimulus can fix these problems to only a limited degree.

Addendum: As Ben Engebreth points out, based on these BLS charts, the correct number seems to be 59% not 96%, though the higher estimate does still seem to hold in Lott’s (more cumbersome and less transparent) sources.

collin September 6, 2013 at 10:44 am

This is the new normal…And the main causlity of the Great Recession is family formation in the long run.

How would you recommend to the working class to increase birth rates when real wages are declining and workers are competing with flexible schedules?

wiki September 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

How about much better public schools through drastic reform of the teachers’ union? Maybe with vouchers throw in. Of course, politically unacceptable, but more plausible than hoping redistribution or QE will *sustainably* raise long run wages for the bottom half.

Tim September 6, 2013 at 11:43 am

The major reason that the poor cannot take advantage of any of these “free-market” schemes (charters, vouchers, private) is transportation. Public schools are in the neighborhood and have zero transportation costs for parents. Private/Charter/Voucher schools not in the neighborhood will never be able to compete with public schools on location. Transporting your kid to school every day has a very real dollar amount.

If you can solve that problem (and why a private company would want to provide education for the base voucher amount) you might have a viable solution to our education woes.

Since part-time jobs are more useful for large households, I would expect birth rates to increase (which they are).

mike September 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm

also most of them are dumb as a box of rocks

Marie September 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Met a ton?

Brandon September 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Well that certainly was a very dumb thing to say.

Marie September 6, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Could you restate that without the three syllable word? You’re confusing me!

Marie September 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Our state is an open school state, which means as long as there are openings and you are willing to transport your child yourself, you can enroll him in any public school. It has helped to increase competition (or at least diversity) somewhat, I know a lot of folks (poor rural) who have taken advantage of it by bringing their kid to a different elementary school than the one their kids would be able to take a bus to. But the transport definitely becomes a barrier, particularly when there is negligible advantage of one school over another.

It is useful in our area, but I can’t see it being useful in a large city where the cost of living is such that both parents have to work and have little flexibility for moving kids around; where traffic makes transport time consuming, unpredictable, and dangerous; and where the difference in quality between your neighborhood school and one twenty minutes down the street might not be much.

I wonder if one possible direction for schools would be small, home based centers. Home school law in some states allows parents to teach their own kids or contract part time for a licensed teacher to do some of the instruction. I can see hybrids popping up where kids spend half a day in a semi-tutoring situation in the neighborhood. That lowers costs, but probably not enough for the actual poor, just the middle middle.

Hoosier September 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

What state is this? In the US? I had no idea such a thing existed.

Marie September 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Open enrollment? Sure!
Just saw a note on the Wisconsin open enrollment site that says low income families can get reimbursed transportation costs, to a degree.
In looking it up just now, came on this good summary:

http://www.ecs.org/html/issue.asp?issueid=22&subissueID=326

MBerg September 8, 2013 at 8:25 am

Open enrollment works great in the Twin Cities…

…for everyone but the Establishment. The Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools are being deserted by everyone with the brains or common sense to do it.

And they do it because a twenty minute drive DOES make a huge difference. And the do what it takes to make it work.

derek September 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm

If the schools get block funding, dollars per student, the ones who leave for other choices affect the school they left behind. In BC, schools get a fixed amount per student, and parents can send their kids to the school they choose. This has meant that for a school to stay open, they need to attract students. Odd how that imperative changes the quality of schools.

Marie September 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Oh, it has a hilarious effect around here! The count is in October, that’s what determines funding. So the schools court families until the count, then turn a cold shoulder. They are required to take students at any point in the year, but if they take them before October they get the money, even if the kid leaves in November. If they take the kid after November they still have to spend on him, but they get no funds.

Home school students are slobbered over here, they have all sorts of programs set up so you can home school through the schools (I know, it’s weird) — online administrated by the school, or part time in the school, because the school gets part funding for each student part enrolled. But they don’t want you after October, if you don’t sign up before October you don’t get the free computer, etc. It’s really a riot. . . .

john smith September 8, 2013 at 10:50 am

Let’s get some clarity on your “charters, vouchers, private” phrasing. It needs to be unpacked to avoid the ‘comparing apples and oranges’ problem.

Charter schools are public schools under a different, more site-based management model than the traditional district run, top-down arrangement.. More than two thirds of public schools in New Orleans function under that site-based charter model. One third of DC public schools do as well, and the percentages are growing in every urban school district in the country where charters are both legally authorized and the local school district is not up to sabotaging implementation of the state law in question. [And, from the department of cheap (but true) shots department, the percentages are growing because of demands of parents. Though it’s not true every day of the week, it is generally the case in Maryland that there are more kids on waiting lists to get into charter schools than there are students actually attending charter schools. Don’t know about other states, though I do recall that there is some insanely large number of kids on waiting lists in New York state]. Again, charter schools ARE public schools. They are funded through the local school district, they are free, and so forth. There is no argument that charter schools are anything other than public schools.

Vouchers refers to a means of financing a child’s education. The term Voucher, therefore, is not a category of schools and therefore should not be included in string of school types.

And private schools, the one part of your comment you got right, are private schools, charging what the market will bear.

Regarding transportation and access to charter schools, here’s an idea: convert more district run schools into charter schools. (by the way, some charter schools are zoned and some are pure lottery (actually most are lottery,because it helps in qualifying for some funding streams)

By no means are all charter schools better that district run schools in the same school district. However, the weight of research findings, and the stampede of parents to charters in every district where the model is implemented place the burden on charter opponents to show why it’s a bad idea.

The comment that triggered this rant was about transportation barriers for low income parents. In New Orleans, there are no transportation barriers, because the authorities have located the charter schools where the children. Visit, for example, Martin Luther King, a charter school in the heart of New Orleans’ storied Ninth Ward. If anything, the city spent too much on that facility, and might have better used some of those capital funds to increase the number of schools.

Transportation barriers are on the list with electric power, indoor plumbing, competent teachers and desks and blackboards [whiteboards these days?]. it’s just one of the items that has to be addressed at the planning stage. It’s not an impediment to implementing the charter model.

Ron H. September 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Tim

Private/Charter/Voucher schools not in the neighborhood will never be able to compete with public schools on location.

Why don’t you believe private schools would appear in locations where there was a demand for them if parents could choose how to spend the education dollars allocated to their children by the state?

richard40 September 9, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Actually there are many catholic schools in poor neighborhoods that would be glad to take vouchers, and they had school busses as well. And If the market is there, other schools will go there. The reason why not many private schools are in poor neighbrhoods now is because the poor cant afford tuition, but once they get vouchers, and can, the schools will come. And today lots of poor kids go to charter schools. Your argument is bogus, once a market is established, with vouchers, people will fill it.

Floccina September 11, 2013 at 10:34 am

If the Government could keep the streets safe transportation would be much less of a problems. (as maybe the schools could open a little latter). The problems of transportation to and from school are definitely solvable.

Noah Yetter September 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Do you truly believe that “the quality of school I/we have access to” affects the decision to have children at the margin? It sounds vaguely plausible, but talk to a few parents and they’ll clear it up for you. Treating the idea charitably and assuming it has some effect, how large is it? How much could you move the birth rate by waving a magic wand and making our schools better than the current best in the world? A hundredth of a percentage point?

Wimivo September 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

Come on man, in the world of economics, “vaguely possible” is enough to warrant developing an entire family of models!

Shadow Merchant September 8, 2013 at 10:26 am

Do you truly believe that “the quality of school I/we have access to” affects the decision to have children at the margin?

In the demographic where this would be the case, they already have access to good schools.

In the demographic all these programs are trying to help, not in the slightest. They are feral beasts who breed as casually as they buy the latest pair of $200 sneakers with their welfare check.

RinPortland September 9, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Basically, you’re screwed. Obama says…
“Get used to it”

Brian Donohue September 6, 2013 at 11:10 am

Private employment up 2.3 million in the past 12 months, government employment down 100,000.

Getting young people into a job, any job, is critically important. Germany understands this and, thankfully, it looks like the US kinda does too. Good luck France.

The bizarre sneering at the quality of jobs in EVERY recovery (when was the word ‘McJob’ coined?) for a country that needs jobs is infantile, and it generally comes from people far removed from the action who have little idea about the lives of ordinary people.

JosieB September 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Actually we aren’t sure how many private jobs have been created because we have no count of under-the-table employment. I find myself increasingly dealing with people (unskilled laborers to business owners to professionals with advanced degrees) who want to be paid in cash or checks made out to their personal, not business names.
We can speculate about the degree to which government regulations or taxation influence this situation, but I believe there can be no doubt that the underground economy has expanded a great deal since the beginning of the Great Recession.

josh September 8, 2013 at 6:59 am

Nailed it,
I have a professional civil engineer/plumber/electrician working on my property. He wants cash only and prefers working for private individuals and not going through government regulations. The odd thing I’ve noticed is that he has an entire network of engineers and tradesman who don’t work for the man. They can’t and won’t.

JWatts September 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

Perhaps the Federal government could try a few years of removing high cost regulations and see if the economy improves? Just give it a try for 4-8 years and see what happens.

tt September 6, 2013 at 11:39 am

tried it 2000-2008

Setekh September 6, 2013 at 11:47 am

No one, not even a left-of-center liberal like me, really believes that Bush was universally or overwhelmingly for small gov’t and fewer regulations.

tt September 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

he defunded every regulatory body he could

fwiw September 7, 2013 at 2:36 am

You know a lot of right-of-center liberals?

When exactly did liberal become something to be ashamed of?

Tom Perkins September 8, 2013 at 9:51 am

“If you can solve that problem (and why a private company would want to provide education for the base voucher amount) you might have a viable solution to our education woes.”

That problem is already solved. Public schools already move children to and fro as part of the cost we now endure for the drastically bad output we have.

Why do you presume the base voucher amount will be so low as to discourage providing the service?

If you build failure into the model, of course your model will predict failure. It’s called begging the question.

Tom Perkins September 8, 2013 at 9:53 am

Since it became synonymous with government conducted theft, indoctrination in mythical positive rights, and absence of functioning constitutional protections for the negative rights which actually do exist.

Careless September 7, 2013 at 11:21 am

There are actually quite a few true believers. Political partisanship is a form of insanity.

derek September 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Let’s see. Wasn’t the consumer protection legislation signed by Bush? Sarbanes Oxley was in 2002, Bush as president. Two rather large, intrusive and expensive regulatory structures from the Bush era.

Johnny A September 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Which high-cost Federal regulations are holding back job growth? I’m not being snarky. I want some meat on this argument so I can know whether I agree with it.

Mogden September 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm

How about the 40% increase in the minimum wage during the middle of the recent depression?

JonF311 September 9, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Re: How about the 40% increase in the minimum wage during the middle of the recent depression?

That is not a regulation; it’s just an increase in input costs, no different than the increase in the cost of, say, gasoline over the last ten years. If input costs go up then businesses can simply increase their own prices to compensate. But more importantly, how many businesses pay minimum wage? The ones that pay better shouldn’t be affected at all by that– yet it’s the middle wage jobs that are disappearing, not the low wage jobs!
And no, this does not qualify as a “depression”

Hoosier September 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Yeah, and not only the ones that held back job growth, BUT full time job growth? Would love to hear some specifics.

JWatts September 6, 2013 at 6:13 pm

a) Obamacare is clearly holding back full time growth and pushing a lot of full time employees into part time positions.
b) Regulatory restrictions by the EPA in 2009 led to a lay off in the scrubber industry. (A lot of utilities decided it was uneconomical to add scrubbers to older plants, since the new regulations meant they would have to close anyway.)

“Jan 2012 According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, nearly 4,300 new regulations are pending – 845 of which will specifically affect small businesses – that have increased business costs, or are expected to do so.”

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2012/01/08/new-2012-regulations-will-inhibit-job-growth/#ixzz2e9Yj3Fjw

Also, this article addresses the issue: http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/09/06/the-path-to-job-creation-runs-through-regulatory-reform/

Therapsid September 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Mancur Olson suggests that we’d need a Third World War for that to happen.

Incontinentia September 8, 2013 at 8:28 am

Mancur Olson is an idiot.

Mancur Olson September 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm

pffft

Mike W September 6, 2013 at 11:25 am

Weren’t the 90s, when the labor participation rate was at its peak, declared to be “the new normal”? So is this new “new normal” really the old normal?

Yancey Ward September 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

It is an unusual normal.

T. Shaw September 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Wasn’t “the new paradigm ” the period 1995 through 2006, when the FRB kept interest rates low and fomented elevated (bubble/inflated?) equities (until 2000) and housing prices?

Oh, why can’t we return to those heady days of yesteryear when GDP grew while real household incomes flat-lined. When residential real estate prices soared while household disposable income stagnated?

It must be due to despicable GOP obstructionism . . .

prior_approval September 6, 2013 at 11:28 am

‘when fewer women wanted to work, of course’

Seriously? That most certainly was not my experience in NoVa/GMU, ca. 1978 – that was the age in which women were flooding into the workplace.

Z September 6, 2013 at 11:29 am

This demonstrates the vacuity of the term “new normal.” If the government suddenly started sacrificing virgins to the job gods that would be the “new normal” until it was stopped. This trend in employment is the result of government policy. Apply a big tax on full time employment and employers shift to part time employment. When the tax is expanded to part time, which is surely will be, that gets passed on to workers in the form of lower wages or consumers in the form of higher prices. There’s nothing magical going on here. Our rulers are running up against the same barriers the Soviet planners ran into a century ago. What some of us call reality.

All this tells us is the totalitarian mind is immune to facts and experience and most of us already knew that.

Cliff Styles September 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Why fewer full-time employees? Because in all the old regimes they have become a pain in the ass.

Bill September 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Hmmm.

From BusinessInsider:

“According to the BLS household survey, part-time jobs fell 234,000 to 27,999,000 in August.

Full-time workers climbed by 118,000.

That’s different from what we’ve been seeing so far in 2013, where part-time jobs have been the major contributor to overall job growth.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-new-jobs-were-part-time-jobs-2013-9#ixzz2e864VJIg

John Hall September 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

If you look carefully at his numbers, the increase is mainly due to a larger number of people employed part-time for non-economic reasons. Why is that a big deal?

mike shupp September 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm

We’re 4 years into this “recovery” and a lot of the long-term unemployed are not young people. At what point will it be legitimate in your eyes to complain about job quality? December 31, 2099?

Topper Harley September 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm

When someone from the GOP is on the hook.

Donald A. Coffin September 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Unles I’m reading the tables incorrectly, and comparing August 2012 with August 2013 (in thousands):

PT Emp 8/12: 26,899
PT Emp 8/13: 27,250
% Change in PT: +1.34%

FT Emp 8/12: 115,275
FT emp 8/13: 116,920
% Change in FT: +1.43%

Tot Emp 8/12: 142,164
Tot Emp 8/13: 144,170
% Change in FT: +1.41%

PT Emp as a % of Tot Emp, 8/12: 18.9%
PT Emp as a % of Tot Emp, 8/13: 18.9%
PT employment growth as a & of Total employment growth:
18.0%

This looks like a nothingburger to me.

bartman September 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Are you implying that Mary Rosh is cherry-picking and ignoring context of statistics? Why, that’s practically unprecedented!

Donald A. Coffin September 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Yeah, but every time it happens, someone has to point it out.

Ralph September 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Totally agree. This is bogus.

In August 2012, 142,164,000 persons were employed; in August 2013, the number employed was 144,170,000, an increase of 2,006,000.

Part-time employment for economic reasons in August 2012 was 8,043,000 and in August 2013 7,911,000, a decrease of 132,000. Part-time employment for non-economic reasons in August 2012 was 18,954,000 and in August 2013 is 19,339,000, an increase of 385,000. The net increase of part-time employment over this period was thus 253,000. How does it figure that all the jobs in this period of time were part-time?

Why do people like Tyler Cohen pay attention to people like John Lott?

bartman September 6, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Mood affiliation?

Jay September 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm

“So far this year”

That means from January 2013 to month-to-date. Not August to August. What is bogus is that you are ignorant of the fact that you cannot exactly compare 2012 data to 2013 as start in January of this year the household survey numbers were updated based on new population controls….

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/empsit_02012013.htm

Donald A. Coffin September 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm

And the 2012 numbers were, in fact, revised…

In any event, comparing January to August will overstate the importance of changes in p-t jobs; 2013 is not substantively different from 2012, 2011, 2010…

Donald A. Coffin September 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm

And, incidentally, the population adjustment adjusted population *down,* not up. So, if anything, that should lead to a *reduction* in the CPS count of p-t workers, not increase it.

Larry Siegel September 7, 2013 at 1:35 am

>Why do people like Tyler Cohen…

I knew he was a “brother”!

You mean Cowen.

Ralph September 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm

You mean Tyler is not a Jewish economist? I may have to drop him from my favorites list.

Tom Perkins September 8, 2013 at 9:57 am

“Why do people like Tyler Cohen pay attention to people like John Lott? ”

Because for partisan reasons, you are very wrong about John Lott.

R Richard Schweitzer September 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Should we not also address the issue of what is being done with the increasing “profits” (accumulating surpluses) from the operations of economic enterprises?

Are those accumulated surpluses being redeployed to expand, or at least mitigate the stagnation of the developed economies that began with the Age of Managerial Capitalism in which we now live?

Hazel Meade September 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm

If anyone is going to extract the surplus labor value of the proletariat, it should be the government.
Forward!

Brian Donohue September 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Guh. The passive voice sets the tone for the sentiments you express beautifully.

RZ0 September 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm

If you look closely at the data John Lott pulled, the increase is entirely among people working part time for noneconomic reasons – things like attending school, taking care of kids. Among people working part time for economic reasons – for example they could only find part-time work – the level is slightly lower for the year.
I don’t understand why he pulled the data he did – by using three subsetting tables. This table seems much more straightforward: http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea06.htm
In it, the number of full time employees has risen 543,000 this year, while the number of part-time employees has risen 497,000.

Marie September 6, 2013 at 2:58 pm

So more people want to attend school and take care of kids now than before?
Nah. There’s always the conflict — do I want to work full time or do I want to work part time and also do X. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the availability and the incentives to work part time, eh? Given that, for any individual this may be a good thing — the mom who wanted to quit her work day before the kids got home from school but needed 40 hours a week at $10 an hour is now thrilled to work 32 hours a week for $11, that sort of thing. But overall, I don’t think it’s an auto-good that so many companies are so eager to make part time the job to have.

RZ0 September 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm

If you look at John Lott’s web site, he uses three subsetting data pulls. Not sure why Lott pulled the data the way he did. I would have used this table:
http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea06.htm
It seems much more straightforward and indicates that full-time employment increased by 340,000 this year, while part-time employment increased 497,000.

Steve J September 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Exactly. When you get a number like 96% that is far outside of what is expected it is safe to say some sleight of hand is involved. Certainly there is a shift to part-time employment. The “correct” numbers I’m sure will be posted by more thoughtful bloggers soon.

Edward Burke September 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm

What havoc or cure could an Asian bird-flu pandemic (prefatory to a global bird-flu pandemic) wreak? what “new stability” could emerge on the other side of a global plague that could strike with mortality rates of, say, 25% to 40% over the course of a decade? Someone at MIT ran scenarios along these lines back in the late 60s/early 70s. (I’m about to take up Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year.)

mike September 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

or we could just deport all the illegal aliens

Hazel Meade September 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

IMO, there is actually a pretty big shift underway at the margins to “intependent contractor” type work. That is, the kind of work where you get paid a flat fee per hour, no benefits, no withholding, and you do your own social security and payroll taxes.

This is sort of a quasi-legal way to hire people without actually having them on the books as employees, so you avoid all the government regulations about benefvits and taxes. The employees are legally all “self-employed”, so they file taxes as a small business instead of as an individual.

It’s actually GREAT, because it puts total control in the hands of the employee, although in general, you have to be smart about it and know how much you need to charge to cover your social security and your taxes. No withholding, either so everyone sees exactly how much the government is charging them.

Mainly at the moment it is freelancers. I personally know a guy who started his own small busness who probably has 5-10 “employees” who are all independent contractors getting paid maybe $10/hour (just over minimum wage). All of these people are marginal workers who would probably be unemployed or working a minimum wage job otherwise.

Ryan September 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Isn’t this old news? When a Kelly Services is the 2nd largest employer in the US, are these numbers really surprising?

http://washingtonexaminer.com/recovery-woes-americas-second-largest-employer-is-a-temp-agency/article/2532778

Paul September 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

96% part-time. And 96% of those were probably for 29.5 hours per week.

Steve J September 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

“stimulus can fix these problems to only a limited degree”

Trying to understand what is good about letting people sit around idle. Apparently we are afraid we are going to distort the market if we have these people work via government dollars rather than private dollars? And that this market distortion is a worse thing than having these people live off of government dollars that do not require them to work? I will need more convincing.

Jon Rodney September 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Yes, that part of TC’s argument doesn’t seem to have a lot of evidence supporting it. How should we know that stimulus (monetary or fiscal) can only fix this problem to a limited degree? If the economy “can’t afford as many mid wage jobs as it used to have”, to what extent is that a result of structural effects like increased automation vs cyclical effects like widespread pessimism about future growth? I’d believe some of it is structural, but to me the evidence seems to support cyclical problems as being larger.

Marie September 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Why do they have to be idle?
People do things outside of their place of employment, things that are often more productive than busywork.
Of course, sometimes those things include political agitation.

Tom Perkins September 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

Sure.

It’s so much better to borrow money and use it pay people to dig holes and fill them in…

That sort of thinking is a reason why being a liberal something to be ashamed of.

the dig September 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Just a few comments:

– Like many said, most (actually, more than 100%) of that increase in part-time job is due to noneconomic reasons, so it does not strike me as scary per se. On the other hand, this could be concentrated on ‘Social Security limits on earnings’, which would indicate some deeper problems associated with this movement – I couldn’t find the exact data on this one, but from the looks of it, that’s not the culprit.
– Even still, the share of part-time jobs does not seem to be much of an issue right now. Total employment is at about -1.4% to -1.7% below January’08 peak, while aggregate weekly hours worked are at -1.5%.
– If you wanna talk about how many jobs were created this year, you should compare the latest number to December’12, not January’13. This yields 865K total jobs, of which 576K part-time (66% total) – a much less dramatic picture than painted above. Go a bit further and compare it to August last year: 2006K jobs, 253K part-time (13% of total). Point is, the data is quite noisy, but the broader trend still indicates part-time jobs returning to their usual share of the total (although, indeed, at a rather slow pace)
– The data mentioned in Lott’s post is total employment, which includes agriculture. Most of the time, people prefer to look at nonfarm payroll – I won’t bore you any more with the data, but it looks even better than the numbers above

So yeah, consider me skeptical over the Great Part-Time Surge.

TallDave September 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Well, on monetary policy, it’s more of a “stop hitting yourself in the face” issue — sure, it won’t fix all your problems, but at least you’re not actively making things worse anymore.

Spencer September 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Unpublished BLS data shows that over 100% of the 2013 increase in part time employment was due to federal employes having to work part time because of the sequester.

The data is unpublished but all you have to do is ask the BLS for this table:

Employed full- and part-time workers by class of worker, working part-time for economic reasons, January 2012-July 2013, and May-July 2007-2011

Bill September 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm

We don’t want to hear this so we will ignore it.

Good find. +1

TMC September 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm

B.S.
The sequester meant their budgets were increased by only 2% rather than the 5 they wanted.

Bill September 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Tmc, Never did I think that someone would in fact prove the first sentence of my comment above. Denial ism in the face of Spencer’s facts.

bxg September 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Saying one delta represents X% (e.g. 96%) of another delta is always fishy; it could as easily be > 100 or < 0 and what does that mean? What would you say if net job grown was 0? (e.g. +100 full time, -100 part time, does full time represent +infinity% of total job growth?). It's a bogus analysis.

But Lott does it, so let's play by his rules and use HIS data. There were 875 new part-time jobs for NON-economic reasons, which means
the worker did not want a full time job. There were 62 thousand FEWER people employed part time for economic reasons.

By Lott's data, that's -62/848 = -7.3%. Shocking! (Actually, what does it even mean?)

And now it's revealed that many of the (fewer) people forced into part time work against their preference were sequestered.
If we exclude them, there is an even bigger DECREASE in the number of people in part time work for economic reasons.

So:
– Lots more people finding part time work they are happy with (at least, happy with the part-time aspect thereof)
– De minimus growth in full time work
– FEWER people, and excluding the sequester even fewer again, who feel trapped in part time work against their preference for full time.

If you think Lott's analysis has validity your explanatory stories need to fit these facts. Like "employers
are cutting hours to just below the full-time cutoff to avoid regulations and taxes". Hmm, wouldn't the affected employees
rather prefer to work a bit more, and thus predominantly be new _economic_ part-timer's? That story isn't at all supported,
indeed is contradicted, by Lott's data and analysis style. Now I happen to think this analysis is 100% bogus so it
is neither evidence for, or against, anything – but if you are going to use it, use it honestly.

Jay September 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

Did you speak up when the Proggers claimed that X% of personal income gains during the ongoing economic recovery went to the top Y% of income earners?

bxg September 7, 2013 at 9:38 pm

The STATISTICS are clear that 100% of pedophiles in the USA are male MR readers over age 30 who are employed in economics departments. Discuss: what is wrong with male economists? You are not allowed to argue against this statistic since, after all, I believe a conservative also once made up a statistic too, and thus rights/wrongs of the underlying claim are thereby off the table. What is the problem with male economist then? Shall we start on the theorizing? Since we can’t quibble with the data, this is a outrageous fact so there is surely some story there? Maybe it’s those
feminists framing all the economists while getting pardons for all non-economist pedophiles? If not, what else? Remember, arguing with the
statistics is off base unless you have provably spoken up against all similar unfounded claims in all of time. So, what is going on?

Seriously Jay, did you miss the point that even using Lott’s data and playing by Lott’s rules, you get a pretty strange conclusion. For example, working by HIS rules, there’s just no support for the claim that some had made that it’s employers reducing hours to just below the full-time threshold. But LOTT’s rule’s the data points quite the opposite way. I am if anything supporting the feral cause by pointing out how Lott’s data is statistically faulty, because if you take his data and his methodology at face value it is inconvenient to that cause.

Steve Sailer September 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Tyler says: “And population growth is outpacing job growth, as indeed it had earlier in the oughties before the financial crisis and recovery. Perhaps that is the new normal?”

Thank goodness that all the smart people have decided that now is the time to boost immigration!

JonF311 September 9, 2013 at 8:17 pm

If one-note Steve ever posted something that did not flog the immigration horse it would be a national holiday. Sailer would somehow work the immigration boogeyman into a discussion about life on other planets, or quantum theory.

freethinker September 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Is the American economy increasingly conforming to what Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy call “monopoly capital”? Is their book a more accurate description of the U.S economy than Mankiw’s macroeconomics textbook?

FE September 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm

How can Tyler append to a post about part-time workers that he sees no significant cost to more inflation? Are we to assume that these people who can’t even bargain their way to 40 hours a week can still obtain raises that keep pace with inflation?

liberalarts September 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

I wonder whether the pace of net job growth and shift to part time is connected to the retirement of the baby boom. Those born in 1951 and earlier are now eligible for social security, and those born in 1946 and 47 are now eligible for full social security. Also, when did John Lott redeem himself from the past charges of playing fast and loose with data?

Nate K September 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

I am not that surprised to see this from Dr. Mankiw, but I expect better from this site. I actually count on you to provide good conservative analysis that’s based in reality. There’s too much wrong with the Lott analysis to explain it all in a comment, but I wrote it up here for anyone interested. http://faithandpublicpolicy.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/well-this-is-embarrassing/

A few other comments have already touched on the same errors I point out (economic v. non-economic part-time employment, time frame of Jan-Aug instead of Aug 12 – Aug 13, etc).

pgl September 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Nate K’s blog should be read before anyone read’s the silliness from John Lott. And it is very silly. Even if Greg Mankiw is overly eager to find anything to say Obama’s economy is horrific for his own political reasons – this should be quite embarrassing to him But Tyler? Please! Consider the source – John Lott. Master of misleading statistics to push forth his own political agenda. The kind of critical thinking Nate did should have been done by any good economist such as yourself before endorsing anything from the legendy John Lott.

Tom Perkins September 8, 2013 at 9:54 am

” Master of misleading statistics to push forth his own political agenda – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/09/the-growth-in-part-time-employment.html#comment-157888502

You have Lott confused with Bellisle.

jeff hoffman September 8, 2013 at 4:39 am

It speaks volumes that anyone in a discipline that involves scrutinizing mathematics can look at a number like 96% in this context and not even raise their eyebrows, but rather run with it in a public forum. Wow. At least Tyler Cowen allows for the corrective response from his readers. The NYT should take a good look at Mankiw’s postings and ask the not so tough questions about the quality of his pronouncements.

Brian Macker September 8, 2013 at 8:53 am

“I see no significant costs from having a higher rate of price inflation in the United States”

I do. They are stealing my retirement savings, moron. If you are this god damn clueless why do you blog on economics.

Jacksonian Libertarian September 8, 2013 at 9:04 am

This is all because of Obamacare, businesses don’t have to spend money for healthcare for part-time employees, so they hire 4-30 hour per week employees to replace 3-40 hour per week employees, and get the same amount of man hours of work (120 hrs).

jeff hoffman September 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I know you have some data to support that statement.

delirious September 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

I don’t know if its OC, but why wouldn’t that be better anyway? (a 30 hour vs. a 40 hour workweek)

Or do you think people work all 40 of those hours?

Matt September 9, 2013 at 1:25 am

“even though the worst of the crisis is over and corporate profits are back up… the American economy is learning that… it can’t afford as many mid wage jobs as it used to have.”

It’s fun what you can do with lacunae! Profits are up! But we can’t afford jobs any more… because profits are… up? Business! Economics! Deadweight loss! Don’t look behind the curtain!

Margaux Brooks September 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm

There was no surprise to me while reading this article; but it is scary to know that the labor force participation rate is at its lowest since 1978 and 96 percent of the jobs available are part-time jobs. We are coming to the conclusion that “American economy is learning that- for structural reasons – it can’t afford as many mid wage jobs as it used to have”.
The economy is trying to create new job opportunities to get the employment rate up, but I believe the problem with this is that there are still so many people searching for jobs, that the standards, and the pay rate, are lower than usual. There are so many people willing and searching to work that some people will settle, while others would demand more money; the company would obviously give the job to the person who is willing to take a lower pay. I also believe that there are more part time jobs because it creates more job opportunities, rather than having one-person work full time.

Labor Law Posters September 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm

The economic situation seems much better than the past few years. Even though part-time is the main rise in employment rate, we have to say that things are becoming better.

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