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:
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.