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A glass half full or half empty? The evolution of full-time and part-time employment


The first graph shows the evolution of full-time and part-time employment over the past few decades. It’s no surprise that both have tended to increase, as the general population has also increased over that period. There’s a bit of a surprise, though, in January 1994: This is when the definition of full-time work was readjusted, leading to a jump in both types of employment. So, why are we looking at these series? There’s been quite a bit of discussion on whether the recent recovery of the labor market has resulted in growth of full-time jobs. This question should be easy to settle by looking at the data. And, indeed, it’s quite apparent that full-time work has increased significantly since the recent recession. The picture isn’t so clear for part-time work, though, in part because the numbers are smaller in general and changes are therefore more difficult to distinguish.

For a better look, we modify the graph: Now, each series has its own axis, on the right for full-time and the left for part-time. In the second graph, it is quite apparent that, over the long-run, part-time work has increased. But the recent history is different: Part-time work jumped as full-time employment fell during the recent recession, but then stayed at the same level even as full-time work trended up.

How these graphs were created: Search for “time employed” and select the two series. (We chose the seasonally adjusted ones.) Click on “Add to Graph” and you have the first graph. Click on “Edit Graph,” open the “Format” tab, and move the Y-axis for one series to the right side.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LNS12500000, LNS12600000


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