By Eddie Lou, CEO
Today’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics continues a trend showing an increase in people who are actively choosing to work part-time. Is this rise simply a reflection of the overall uptick in employment, or is it related to the increase in opportunities for part-time workers looking to manage their own time?
The BLS separates out employment numbers for part-time workers into those who choose to work part-time for non-economic reasons, as opposed to those full-time workers who are forced into part-time work due to economic factors such as losing a full-time job. Workers in the “non-economic reasons” bucket include those who actively seek part-time work to care for children or other loved ones or to balance their personal and work lives on their own terms.
If we go back to 2007, you can see that we are coming out of a period, starting about a year ago, when the numbers of workers choosing part-time are on the rise. The chart below shows annual summer dips (likely reflecting college students returning home for the summer), but it also shows that numbers for this group are reaching peaks that the employment market hasn’t seen since before the recession. In fact, the April 2015 number of 20.6 million is the highest on record in the 21st century.
Could this be a sign that the on-demand labor market is picking up and attracting more workers? Companies like Uber and Shiftgig offer opportunities for people to work when they want, where they want, and to manage their work lives around family needs and their own outside interests. The flexibility of managing your own schedule is appealing to a growing segment of workers who actively pursue part-time employment. Shiftgig announced this past week that they have received $22 million in Series B venture funding to expand their mobile marketplace connecting employers with local, vetted hourly workers.
“There aren’t any other opportunities out there that are as flexible as Shiftgig,” says Clint, a Chicago-area bartender. “You can make as much or as little as you want. You can choose your own destiny. It’s the only thing I know that you can do when it fits in your schedule, when it’s right for you.”
Economists and journalists often report on the number of people who have left the job market and are not seeking jobs as a sign that job gains reported by the BLS don’t tell the full story. But the economic numbers also reflect an increasing number of people choosing to work part-time.
It should be interesting to see if the number of people shifting their work life for noneconomic reasons–the ones choosing not to leave the workforce but to manage their work lives on their terms–will continue to rise as more opportunities open up for them.