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Steven Kurlander

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New Paradigm of Permanent Part-time Employment: Key Issue for Election 2012

Posted: 05/07/2012 5:04 pm

My son Aaron is attending NYU and has been working his way through school part-time as a salesperson at a high-end boutique clothing store in fashionable SoHo.

Aaron found the job about a year ago and has been averaging a good 20-25 hours a week, which allowed him to pay for his food and expenses in expensive Manhattan. He just finished his finals last week and was looking forward to starting to work additional hours over the summer to save his money for the upcoming school year-like he did last year.

On Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued another poor jobs report, with only 115,000 private sector jobs were created last month.

At about the same time the jobs reports was being issued, Aaron found out that his hours had been cut in half to only 11 hours-his hopes for steady summer employment were suddenly decimated.

Like many American workers, he suddenly has to worry whether he will be able to make it through the next few months because of a cutback in his hours.

Aaron now joins the growing ranks of in the American workforce that has been either laid off or has been forced to work two, three part time jobs to make ends meet.

Generally, if employed, the American worker has been toiling harder and harder for too long a time for less and less, in a demanding working atmosphere where high unemployment allows the employer to hold all the cards.

Both full-time and part-time employees these days in the private sector work under the threat of immediately losing their job, knowing that they can be easily replaced at moment's notice.

This dismal labor market has continued to exist, year after year now, because of continued corporate cost cutting, a declining demand for services, improving technical efficiencies, poor fiscal and tax policy in Washington, and the continued export of manufacturing and service jobs by American companies overseas.

Combine those factors with the wait and see attitude of employers afraid of creating new jobs because of looming, mandatory Obamacare costs and the result is that full time employment opportunities continue to shrink.

Instead, more and more employers are now hiring less costly part timers and temps and pushing employees into per diem relationships in this stagnant economic environment.

The result: The labor market is now characterized by this evolving paradigm of permanent part-time employment that threatens the American dream for many Americans-mostly college students trying to emerge into the workforce.

The Labor Department defines part time workers as "those who worked 1 to 34 hours during the survey reference week."

The American workforce overall is barely working full time. The average workweek for American employees on private, non-farm payrolls stood unchanged last month at 34.5 hours.

In addition, in April there were officially 7.9 million "involuntary" part-time American workers.

"Involuntary part-time workers" are those working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full time job. That figure is double from three years ago.

There is no Labor Department figure that measures how those working part time have had their 1-34 hours cut back further in a particular week.

Depressed in many ways, Americans workers are growing sick and tired of working harder for less money, experiencing cutbacks in hours and benefits, and fearing layoffs as a way of life.

Students too are starting to grow tired too of the lack of opportunity for summer time jobs and for full time employment as they try to enter the workforce after graduation.

Paradigm part time employment is not much of a talking point yet, but it's a ticking political time bomb that can derail a second term for President Obama -- particularly in his quest to attain the student vote again.

Many college students and graduates in Aaron's predicament are changing their minds about the rock star that captured their vote in 2008 with promises of "hope and change." On Election Day, they, and their parents too, may be unemployed and discouraged-or working two or three desperate, menial part time jobs-to move "forward" to get to the polls to vote for the president again.

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly's Kommentary, writes a weekly column for Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel and Florida Voices, and is a South Florida communications strategist.

 

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