Our new part-time economy
Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
Is the full-time American job going the way of the dodo? The signs aren't exactly heartening.
Consider the jobs report released
Critics of Obamacare have a ready explanation: The 30-hour-a-week cutoff of the now-postponed employer mandate
Of the 195,000 jobs created in June, fully 75,000 came in
Worse yet, the jobs being created paid a lot less than the jobs that were lost. While the average hourly wage of non-supervisory employees in manufacturing was $19.26 in June, it was $13.96 for retail employees and $11.75 for hotel and restaurant workers. Indeed, the median hourly wages of all American workers declined 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2012, according to a study published this week by the National Employment Law Project.
There's no doubt that if the economy were at full employment, workers' hours would be longer and their wages higher. But the decline in workers' hours has been going on for decades: In 1966, the American worker put in an average of 38.7 hours a week; last month, she put in 34.5. More than anything else, this reflects the economy's shift away from manufacturing to services (a catch-all category that includes retail, restaurants and most everything else). The average workweek in services last month came to 33.4 hours
The move toward part-time work isn't the economy's only epochal shift. Another is the move toward temporary employment; that is, toward an economy in which employers regularly use workers from temp agencies. The advantages are clear: Employers are under no pressure to provide raises or benefits to temporary workers, nor are they legally liable if the workers turn out to be undocumented or are hurt on the job.
Of the new jobs created last month, 10,000 came through temp agencies. Their designation notwithstanding, many temp workers find they're both full time and permanent. As
Left to its own devices, the American economy is eroding the American job. Hours decline, dragging take-home pay down with them. The identity of the boss becomes mystified, much to the boss's advantage. A government commitment to full employment, backed up by the public investment required to create it, would bolster not just the quantity but also the quality of our jobs. Republicans are dead set against that, however, and most Democrats appear to have abandoned the fight. So much for the American job.
Herold Meyerson is editor-at-large of
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