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Part-time workers: Willing or not?


The evolution of part-time work has come up repeatedly in the public discourse. Let’s look at the data. The top graph shows two types of part-time situations: one for those who voluntarily choose part-time work and one for those who would rather work full-time but can find only part-time work (including those whose jobs were reduced to part-time status). Both lines trend upward in the long run in ways that seem consistent with population growth. The cyclical impact is also noticeable, as recessions typically push more people into part-time work, especially for the “non-volunteers.” (FYI: That shift in 1994 was caused by a change to the survey that re-explained what “part-time for economic reasons” means.)

The bottom graph uses a percentage distribution that may reveal more clues about the reasons behind part-time work: There’s a long-term trend toward more involuntary part-time work (among those who work part-time) but with a recent reversal of that trend. Since 2009, contrary to what’s often portrayed, there’s been no increase in part-time work. Over that same time period, the proportion of involuntary part-time workers hasn’t increased either.

How these graphs were created. Top graph: Search for “part time employment,” check the two series you want, and select “Add to Graph.” Bottom graph: Start with the same graph but restrict the sample to start in 1994, then re-format the graph by selecting graph type “Area” with stacking set to “Percent.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LNS12032194, LNS12600000


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