Posts Tagged ‘part-time’


They keep promising, ever since the recovery from the Great Recession started more than eight years ago, that workers’ wages will finally begin to increase. But they’re not.

Sure, profits continue to rise. And so is the stock market. But not wages. And mainstream economists can’t come up with an adequate explanation of why that’s the case.


We’ve all heard or read the story. According to mainstream economists, as the unemployment rate falls (the blue line in the chart above), a labor shortage will be created and workers’ wages (the red line) will begin to rise.

That’s the promise, at least. But the official unemployment rate is now down to 4.4 percent (from a high of 9.9 percent in 2009) and yet wages (for production and nonsupervisory workers) are only increasing at a rate of 2.3 percent a year—much less than the 4 percent workers saw back in 2007 when the unemployment rate was pretty much the same.

What’s going on?

One of the things going on is the Reserve Army. The existence of a large pool of unemployed and underemployed workers competing with other workers for the available jobs is keeping wage growth at a very low rate.


Consider, for example, the growth of full-time (the green line in the chart above) and part-time work (the purple line) in the United States. Since 1968, the two kinds of employment increased more or less simultaneously—until the most recent crash. Notice in the chart that, as full-time employment fell (from 121.9 million in 2007 to 111 million in 2010), part-time employment soared (from 24.7 million to 27.4 million). But then, even as full-time work began to increase again (reaching 125.8 million in August 2017), part-time employment remained high (27.6 million in that same month).


And it’s that pool of part-time American workers (in addition to the pool of surplus workers in other countries, increased automation, and low wages in the retail and food-service sectors) that is keeping most workers’ wages from growing.

Mainstream economists keep promising the American working-class an increase in wages. But neither they nor the economic system they celebrate is able to deliver on those promises.

The fact is, the longer those promises are proffered but remain unmet, the more frustrated workers will become. And the more likely it is they will demand a solution—a radically different economic system that doesn’t rely on a Reserve Army and can actually deliver on its promises to workers.

academic L

As we know, the share of part-time faculty in U.S. higher education has increased dramatically over the past four decades.

According to the latest report from the American Association of University Professors (pdf),

Part-time faculty today comprise approximately 40 percent of the academic labor force, a slightly larger share than tenured and tenure-track faculty combined.

While the category of part-time faculty includes professors temporarily teaching on a percentage basis—professors on phased retirement who teach one or two courses at a reduced rate, new assistant professors who are teaching part-time while finishing a dissertation, and others—the vast majority (91 percent) teach on a per-section basis.

The AAUP estimates that, in 2016–17, part-time faculty members teaching on a per-section basis earned a total of $7,066, on average, from a single institution. Moreover,

Most institutions avoid providing benefits to part-time faculty by prohibiting them from teaching more than two or three courses in a semester. The average pay from a single institution for part-time faculty teaching on a per-section basis is well below the federal poverty line of $16,240 for a family of two. Even if we assume that a part-time faculty member teaches three courses at one institution and three at another, the earnings from those courses would still likely place him or her near the poverty line.

Part-time faculty are the working poor who today walk the supposedly hallowed halls of the academy.


According to CNN Money [ht: ja], the number of people working part-time involuntarily is more than 50 percent higher than when the current economic crises began.

Paige Stevenson is caught in the part-time job trap. She started working six months ago as a legal assistant for 30 hours a week in Annapolis, Maryland, a state where involuntary part-time has doubled since the recession began. She keeps trying to find something full-time.

Stevenson accepted her current position as a “stop-gap” measure because she had been unemployed for a while and wanted to get back into the workforce any way she could. She earns $15 an hour and receives no benefits, but her husband’s technician job provides health care for the family.

After taking into account daycare for her 4-year old son, a home mortgage and the cost of living near Washington D.C., she is in debt.

“When you’re dealing with part-time jobs, they’re basically dead ends,” Stevenson, 32, says, “Employers, at least around here, have been asking for the moon and paying zero.”

Many of those working part-time when they prefer to have full-time employment are being forced to have the freedom to stay as long as possible in dead-end jobs. They are also more likely to live at or below the poverty line, to be laid off and go through extended periods without any job at all, and to work without any benefits (such as paid sick leave, vacation days, job training, or health insurance).

The high number of involuntary part-time workers are a sure sign we’re still in the Second Great Depression.

weekly wages

(interactive here)

Weekly wages for every demographic group (with the exception of women working full-time, whose wages have simply remained flat) have fallen in real terms during the so-called recovery: part-time and full-time; all men and women working part-time; whites, blacks, hispanics; teenagers as well as prime-age workers; those earning close to a thousand dollars a week as well as those trying to get by on a quarter of that.

In other words, pretty much all workers. . .


The current “recovery” continues to produce and to rely on the existence of a Reserve Army of Labor.

A large part of that reserve army is, of course, unemployed—both short-term and long-term. Another substantial proportion is made up of workers who can only find part-time work, especially in the so-called retail and hospitality sectors.

The chart above shows a decline in the number of those working part-time for economic reasons that is the result of slack business conditions. However, the level of workers who are part-time because they simply can’t find full-time work is actually higher now than it was before the crash.


Not only are millions of American workers forced to take part-time jobs. Their wages are growing even more slowly than the wages of full-time workers, which themselves have been growing very slowly during the Second Great Depression.


The new “Issue Brief” for the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes of Research [pdf] demonstrates what all of us in the field have been seeing over the course of the past decade: colleges and universities have continued to hire new faculty members but most of the increase is from the growing use of part-time faculty, especially at public institutions. Even at private institutions, where full-time faculty have grown (but still less than the growth of part-time and contingent faculty), the number of full-time professors on short-term contracts has increased dramatically.

As the number of part-time instructors grows, job security continues to erode among full-time faculty. Academics today are less likely than a decade ago to have tenure, hold a tenure-track position, or be full professors. Although tenure systems are a mainstay at research universities and public master’s institutions, they have become less prevalent at other public and private institutions. The proportion of tenured faculty has declined across the board, even in sectors with nearly universal access to tenure systems. In 2012, less than half of full-time instructional staff at public and private four-year institutions held tenure, a decline of 4 to 5 percentage points since 2000. And among full-time faculty, the share of “professors” declined by more than 4 percentage points since 2003, as adjuncts and other contingent faculty were increasingly at the lectern.

qqxsgPart time workers

Follett Higher Education Group, a division of Illinois-based Follett Corporation, which operates more than 980 campus bookstores at colleges and universities nationwide,

informed its employees on November 8 that it is “adjusting [its] store staffing model to put more hours on the sales floor whenever students are shopping most,” by laying off 570 full-time employees at 400 of its stores, effective immediately.

Follett spokesperson Tom Kline confirmed this past Monday that the company cut 23 full-time positions last month at the University of Notre Dame. He said each of those positions is being replaced with at least two part-time workers.


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