The Future of Part-time Jobs in the US Economy

For some time, people have feared that firms will replace full-time jobs with part-time jobs in order to cut back on costly benefits and taxes. This speculation has been spurred by debate over the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that employers with more than 50 employees provide health-insurance coverage to those who work 30 or more hours per week.

New data from Indeed suggests that these fears are misplaced. Comparing historical data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to insights from job searches and postings on Indeed, we developed a forward-looking approach to see where part-time employment may be headed in the future. Data from the last year and a half indicates that the rise in part-time job postings is not enough to substantially displace full-time employment.

Searches for part-time jobs have increased

Searches for Part-time Jobs in the US

From January 2012 to September 2013 job searches that specified “part-time” work increased from 1.0% to 1.5% of all job searches (see figure above). The increase in searches for part-time positions may be because some people don’t expect to find full-time work or need to supplement income from a full-time job. It’s also likely that many people using the search terms “evening” and “weekend” want to balance work with other responsibilities in their lives. On average, people are ten times more likely to specify “part-time” rather than “full-time” in their job search.

Growth of part-time jobs doesn’t indicate a substantial shift

As of the end of September 2013, for every 5 full-time job postings there was almost 1 part-time job posting. This is an increase in the number of part-time jobs from January 2012, where there were almost 8 full-time job postings for each part-time posting. But that’s not to say that full-time job postings have stagnated — over this period, the total number of job postings grew by ~2% per month, composed of a ~3% per month growth rate for part-time jobs and a slower rate of ~1.5% per month for full-time jobs.

As a percentage of job postings, the figure below shows that part-time jobs have increased from less than 12% in the beginning of 2012 to almost 16% by the end of September 2013. According to data from the household survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 19% of workers in the US are currently working primarily part-time. The BLS number indicates the base mix in the economy while the postings indicate where the economy may head over time. Even though there is an increase in part-time job postings, it’s not a large enough percentage to predict a substantial shift in the mix of jobs in the US economy going forward. In other words, even if part-time jobs continue to grow at double the rate of full-time jobs over the next six months, the share of full-time employment would only drop by 1% in that time period.

Part-time Job Posting in US

Vast majority of jobs will continue to be full-time

Overall, in looking at the data from job postings and job searches, we expect most jobs will be full-time going forward. Full-time positions still make up 80% of US employment and over 80% of jobs on Indeed — and continue to grow. While commentary on the labor market often suggests part-time jobs are undesirable, the timing of increased searches for part-time positions well into an economic recovery may also indicate an increased interest in flexible jobs. These jobs can also offer the opportunity for people to combine work with other responsibilities, re-enter the workforce or gain experience in a new occupation.