Lost in July’s Jobs Report celebration of the drop in the unemployment rate was the remorseless and grinding continuation of the destruction of full-time jobs. Nearly 800,000 part-time jobs were created while 523,000 full-time jobs were wiped out. A staggering 28 million workers are now engaged in part-time work. A majority of economists see part-time job growth as felicitous since it has historically predicted increased productivity that ultimately leads to full-time job creation. If this were 1974 instead of 2014 I might agree. But it is not. What is going on now is deeply structural and demands a different perspective.
Technology has developed to the point that very many retail and restaurant operations now have a very good handle on customer traffic flows. Unsurprisingly they are using this intelligence to optimize part-time work schedules and limit the risk of paying for labor when it cannot be best leveraged. A by-product of such scheduling is often a hodge-podge collection of non-standard work schedules that plays havoc with the normal rhythms of a household, especially one with young children or elderly relatives in need of care.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47% of workers between the ages of 26 to 32 receive a week or less of advance notice for their schedule. These workers have very little input on their schedules which can have a wide variability of just a handful of hours all the way up to nearly 30 hours per week. The scheduling issues spill over into earnings. Prior to such variability workers desiring full-time earnings could stitch together two part-time jobs with non-conflicting schedules.
Left on their own to sort it out, either enough labor would adapt and find satisfaction with the arrangement or it would not. Businesses would discontinue use scheduling models if sufficient labor could not be attracted and retained in the scheme. Economists may be behind the curve but government bureaucrats, unions and non-government organizations are dialing in.
Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced the Flexibility for Working Families Act (S 1248) last year. The Act focuses on a “right to request” provision that would bar employers from denying requests from workers with caregiving or school-related conflicts unless they had a “bona fide” business reason.
Representative George Miller (CA-11) plans to introduce legislation that would require companies to pay a penalty of one hour’s labor for less than 24 hours’ notice and guarantee a minimum of four hours’ pay on days when employees are released after 3 hours or less. Retail and restaurant establishments are well known for sending staff home if business is too slow.
The city of SeaTac, Washington, passed a referendum that bars employers in the hospitality and transportation sectors from hiring additional part-time workers if any of their existing part-timers want more hours.
The Center for Popular Democracy is at the forefront of a coalition of likeminded unions and “social justice” groups pressing for regulations that will undoubtedly fly in the face of reality. We certainly need new practices for the burgeoning part-time economy, but they will not be had from antique concepts that were fresh in the 1930’s.