Wednesday, December 31, 2014

5 graphs for 2015: #3, part time workers for economic reasons

This is a continuation of my series describing 5 economic relationships I'll be paying particular attention to in 2015.  Here are the previous posts:
That the economic expansion will continue seems like an easy call.  That there will continue to be job growth each month comes with that territory.

But there are still too many workers, or potential workers, who aren't participating.  One measure of their stress is the level of part-time workers for economic reasons as a share of the civilian labor force.  Here's that graph going back 50 years:

Note that the 1982 recession created just as many involuntary part time workers as did the 2008-09 recession.  Note also that it took almost a decade to get close to a more "normal" relationship.

The level of involuntary part time employment affects the official unemployment rate. If there were as few involuntary part-timers as a share of the labor force as there were in 1989, given the number of hours of work available in the economy, about 0.5% of other part time workers would be out of work completely.  So without involuntary part-time employment, our current unemployment rate would be about 6.3% rather than 5.8%.

If the economy continues to grow in 2015 - and I expect it will - then the unemployment rate should decrease, and so should the percentage of involuntary part-time workers.  But by how much?  That's what I'll be watching.