Aug. 27, 2014

Earlier this year, research from the Indeed Hiring Lab examined the search patterns of job seekers across a wide variety of occupations, revealing that 81.5% of people are searching for jobs outside of their current occupation, 43.5% of people are searching in their current occupation, and that the higher the share of job postings in an occupation, the more attractive it is to job seekers.

One trend that stood out from those patterns was that “part-time” is a top search term in 18 of the 23 standard occupational categories we studied. Despite a downward trend from its 2009 peak, approximately 7.5 million Americans are working part-time for economic reasons (PTER), meaning that their full-time position has been reduced to part-time or they are unable to find full-time employment — a figure that is roughly 60% greater than the prerecession level. The increasingly significant role of part-time employment in the labor market recovery prompted us to get a better sense of how people are searching for these jobs.

Trends in part-time employment from the last ten years

When we examine aggregated, anonymized search data on Indeed, we can’t discern whether a job seeker is looking for part-time jobs for economic or non-economic reasons (education, health or family). However, we can determine job seeker preferences, revealed through keyword searches and clicks. While traditional economic data typically lag by several months, Indeed’s unique data offer a look into possible labor market movements over the next several months because they are derived from current job searches. By matching clicks to our Indeed Resume data, we are able to parse out revealed part-time job interest by gender, experience level, occupation and location.


Key Insights

  • Part-time interest is much stronger for women, particularly early and later in a career
  • Workers are much more keen on part-time employment in lower cost cities
  • Computer and Mathematics workers are highly interested in part-time employment


Part-time Jobs Garner More Interest From Women

According to 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures, women account for less than half of total US payroll employment, yet make up two-thirds of people employed part-time. This is consistent with our dataset — 63% of part-time job clicks came from women.

Interest in part-time jobs from women is elevated around the ages of 19 to 32, and it recedes gradually for several years before picking up again and ultimately peaking at the tail-end of a career. Throughout their careers, women’s interest in part-time jobs is greater than men’s. Moreover, the gap between the percentage of clicks on part-time jobs from men and women steadily widens as workers age. This can be attributed to the share of clicks on part-time jobs by women increasing at a faster rate.

Job seeker interest in part-time jobs mirrors part-time employment

Recent Pew Research Center analysis shows that 45% of mothers and 41% of fathers say that the best thing for a young child is to have a mother who works part time. And, in married, two-parent households where the husband earns more than half of the household income, 25% of women work in the home as caregivers. Fluctuating interest in part-time work over the course of woman’s career could be attributed these trends.

Both men and women are increasingly interested in part-time jobs as they near retirement age. Job losses, house price declines, investment concerns and other fallout from the Great Recession may be encouraging older workers to augment their retirement with a part-time job. It is interesting to note that although the number of workers aged greater than 55 has increased significantly as baby boomers near retirement, the share of those working part-time has remained unchanged.

Part-time employment by gender and work experience

When it comes to younger workers, interest in part-time jobs is high. For this age group, remaining in or returning to school as full-time students has been one way to wait out the weak labor market. Without much work experience, a part-time job can be an opportunity for young people to steadily build skills. Indeed data show that Office and Administration Support, Protective Service and Community and Social Services occupations  receive the majority of interest from younger workers searching for part-time jobs. Office and Administration Support jobs offer younger workers experience in a professional setting, while the remaining top occupation categories for younger workers feature summer jobs such as Camp Counselor and Lifeguard.

Some STEM Workers Seek Flexible Work Arrangements

To examine the breakdown of interest in part-time jobs by occupational categories, we compared the share of clicks to part-time jobs to the share of part-time job postings in a given occupation. A ratio greater than one indicates that job seekers are expressing more interest in part-time jobs than there are part-time jobs available in that occupation.

By far, the greatest interest in part-time jobs comes from candidates in Transportation and Material Moving — this is the only occupation with a score greater than two. Other higher ranking occupations are those typically associated with part-time work, such as Food Preparation, Personal Care and Service, and Farming. These findings are consistent with broad payroll employment trends, as BLS data show that service and sales occupations accounted for more than half of part-time employment in 2013.

Clicks to part-time jobs relative to part-time job postings, by occupation

Candidates looking for jobs in Architecture and Engineering or Life, Physical and Social Science occupations conduct relatively few searches for part-time jobs, since these occupations are not typically associated with part-time work. Surprisingly though, another STEM occupation, Computer and Mathematical related jobs, does receive a high number of clicks to part-time jobs. There are many more jobs available in Computer and Mathematical than there are people searching for them. The high level of interest in part-time jobs in those fields could indicate that these workers are looking for more flexible work arrangements than are currently offered by employers seeking candidates with the STEM skills they need.

Interest in Part-time Work is Higher in Metro Areas With Low Cost of Living

Among the top 20 most commonly searched metropolitan areas on Indeed, St. Louis, San Antonio and Charlotte are the most popular cities for part-time job searches. We correlated these data with the National Association of Realtor’s Median Sales Price of Existing Single-family Home data for each metro area, and found a strong correlation between the two measures — higher home values are associated with lower interest in part-time employment.

Searches for part-time jobs, by city

The top half of this chart is largely comprised of cities with lower housing and living costs. The higher-cost metro areas that comprise the second half of the chart (New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington DC) are much less friendly to part-time work, which typically pays a lower wage than full-time employment. Combining the data on who is searching for part-time jobs with this look at the where people are searching for this kind of employment gives us a better understanding of the role part-time employment plays in the national economy.

Examining how many people are searching for part-time jobs, who they are and where they’re coming from, can give employers an idea of how much demand exists for these types of jobs. While some workers are seeking part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time employment, others are in search of flexible work arrangements that leave them with more time for family, the opportunity to build skills in a new field, or the chance to remain in the workforce even as retirement approaches. Combining these demographics data on part-time job seekers with location data then reveals how part-time jobs function differently from place to place.

An analysis of job search by location can be found in Where People Search for Jobs: Cross-Border Labor Mobility, the latest report from the Indeed Hiring Lab.


For updates on the latest trends and analysis, subscribe to the Indeed Blog.


About the data
For this study, we utilized job seekers’ clicks on Indeed part-time job postings during the month of July 2014 as a measure of interest in part-time work. We estimated job seekers’ gender and experience level from aggregated, anonymized resume data. These estimates are used for research purposes only.
For analysis of part-time interest by location we examined aggregated, anonymized searches for “part-time” jobs over a twelve month period, ending August 2014.
To investigate interest in part-time jobs by occupation we created an index comparing part-time job clicks as a share of total clicks to part-time job postings as a share of total postings. A measure greater than one indicates that job seekers are expressing more interest through clicks on part-time jobs than are available in than that occupational category. A score less than one is indicative of lesser interest for part-time jobs than are available.