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November 17 2015

Part-Time Workers Share Misery of the Unemployed

Patrice J. Lee

The economy is at full employment - or so says the Federal Reserve - but do American workers feel any better about their financial situation? New polling indicates no, if you are working part time or are unemployed.

Gallup polling finds that the financial well-being of involuntary part-time workers is poor and almost as difficult as those who aren’t working at all.

For 2015, the financial well-being score for involuntary part-time workers is 46.3 compared to 44.6 for unemployed workers and 60 for full-time and self-employed workers.

Even worse, only 18 percent of involuntary part-time workers say they are thriving financially compared to 23 percent of unemployed workers. More than one third of full-time workers (38 percent) and self employed(36 percent) said that they are thriving financially.

Involuntary part-time workers are those who usually worked full time in the past but are working part time or fewer hours because they can't find full-time work in this economy.

As part of Gallup’s Healthways Well-Being Index, financial well-being is assessed by asking adults questions that include their ability to afford food and healthcare, whether they’re worried about money, and their standard of living compared with their peers.

About one third of the unemployed say they did not have enough money for food (31.7 percent) or healthcare/medicine (29.5 percent) followed closely by involuntary part-time workers (29.4 percent for food and 28.3 percent for healthcare/medicine).

All of this indicates the hardships that many American workers face in this economic recovery.

Gallup explains the implications:

Since the onset of daily measurement in 2010 -- the first calendar year after the official end of the Great Recession -- the percentage of U.S. workers who were involuntarily working part-time jobs has only recently shown signs of decline.

This decline may signify that Americans are feeling a modest amount of financial relief. Gallup's underemployment rate, which is a combination of the unemployment rate and the involuntary part-time rate, was 14.1% in September, its lowest since daily tracking began in 2010. And, given the close relationship between unemployment, involuntary part-time employment and food insecurity, it is likely that the decline in the underemployment rate has played a role in the reduction of food insecurity to its seven-year low, reported earlier this year.

Each month when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rates, we use this data to analyze how the economy is performing. However, this is an imperfect picture of the labor market and an incomplete picture of how the American worker is coping with everyday life.

A five-percent unemployment rate may indicate full employment based on macro-economic definitions, but this counts those who are forced to work less than they desire because opportunities are not abundant. Let’s face it, our economy is still leaving too many workers out of work, working less, and struggling to meet their every day needs.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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