temps

Full-time jobs are getting harder to find

June 4, 2012 at 12:18 PM ET

Andrea Mulhearn Brobst wants a full-time job.

Despite having a four-year degree in business, she’s only been able to find a low-paying part-time retail job since she was laid off “from a real job at the beginning of this economic mess,” she said.

And Kathi Nguyen has been relying on temporary jobs since she lost her full-time corporate position in 2007. “It's just an extremely frustrating situation,” she said. “I want full-time.”

Unfortunately, finding a coveted full-time gig has gotten harder since the Great Recession hit, and last week’s May unemployment data showed the problem is getting worse.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an uptick in the number of workers classified as “involuntary part time,” or those who’d rather be working a 40-hour plus week. The data shows the number of people working part time for economic reasons climbed above 8 million in May.

There are two types of employees that come under the involuntary part-time category: those who are working fewer hours because their present employer cut back hours due to business conditions, and those who just can’t find full-time jobs.

While the number of employees who saw their full-time work schedules cut by their existing employers stayed about even with last month, and declined 8.8 percent from last year; the number of workers who could only find part-time jobs rose about 12 percent to 2.6 million in May, and increased about the same percentage compared to the same month last year.

And since the recession began in 2008, the number of people who were part time because they couldn’t find a full-time position skyrocketed by 1.4 million individuals, or 117 percent, according to research by Heidi Shierholz, economist for the Economic Policy Institute.

“It’s probably more a story of job opportunities,” she said. “Desperate workers have to settle with what they can find.”

Companies are just not willing to take on many more workers in this economy, even though employers are starting to see signs of economic life.

“Employers are reluctant to add full-time, permanent employees and they’re looking for innovative ways to respond to business,” said Craig Rowley, vice president of human resource consulting company Hay Group.

The big question, he said, is how do they respond to an uptick in sales without adding fixed expenses such as permanent workers? “They look at temp workers and employing more part time employees,” he said.

While Rowley said companies will add more full-time workers as the economy continues to improve, the employment world is shifting to a more just-in-time model. “They are looking for a more flexible workforce,” he said, especially in retail and healthcare.

That flexibility, however, isn’t good news for workers who want full-time, permanent jobs.

“The constant fluctuation in hours from week to week means that workers face ongoing uncertainty about their earnings,” stated Nancy Kauthen, a sociologist and policy consultant in a 2011 report titled: “Scheduling Hourly Workers: How last minute, just-in-time scheduling practices are bad for workers, families and business.” “The financial instability alone can create tremendous stress for low- to moderate-income families who never know whether their wages will cover the monthly bills.”

What’s your take? Are you working part time but would rather have a full-time gig?

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