January 06, 2009
The number of persons working part time for economic reasons, one important indicator of labor market difficulty, has suggested a softening in the demand for labor since about mid-2006.
Sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers and viewed as underemployed, these individuals wanted full-time jobs but worked less than 35 hours during the survey reference week primarily due to slack work (a reduction in hours in response to unfavorable business conditions) or the inability to find full-time work.
In November 2008, 7.3 million persons were employed part time for economic reasons, up by 3.4 million from a recent low of 3.9 million in April 2006.
As is typical during labor market downturns, the bulk of the 3.4-million increase in economic part-time employment was due to an increase in the number of workers whose hours were cut back due to slack work (as opposed to the inability to find full-time work).
These data are from the Current Population Survey and are seasonally adjusted. To learn more, see "Involuntary part-time work on the rise" (PDF), Issues in Labor Statistics, summary 08-08, December 2008.