Americans puzzled by why unemployment of less than 5% has not caused a surge in either gross domestic product or inflation do not need to look beyond the workforce for the number of people who believe they are underemployed. It is 6.4 million, based on one traditional measure.
According to The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), these Americans are labeled involuntary part-time workers. They are at the center of a part of the workforce that some employers leverage to save benefits by monitoring work hours.
The EPI research group reports on the shift to part-time work:
A new paper by Penn State economics professor and University of Illinois’ Project for Middle Class Renewal analyst’s Lonnie Golden explains that, since the end of the Great Recession, there has been a structural shift, concentrated in a few key industries, that has led to millions more workers to be involuntarily working part-time hours when they would like to work full-time jobs.
As is the case with many of the worst employment problems, minorities and workers in the lowest paid jobs take the brunt of the beating:
While virtually all industries employ part-time labor, the retail and the leisure and hospitality industries alone accounted for 54.3 percent of the growth of involuntary part-time employment between 2007 and 2015.
Black and Hispanic workers have been relatively more affected by this structural shift. While 3.7 percent of whites work part time involuntarily, 6.8 percent of Hispanic workers and 6.3 percent of black workers have part-time hours but want to work full time.
The jobs recovery is still spotty.