Many Americans Have More Than One Job
After the 2008 financial crisis wreaked untold damage on the labor side of the economy, millions of Americans were left without jobs. Since then, many have only been able to find work that pays them far less, meaning they’ve had to take on multiple positions at the same time.
These “multiple job holders” have taken up a growing portion of the demographic pie. (Source: “The job juggle is real. Many Americans are balancing two, even three gigs,” CNBC, October 17, 2016.)
Their numbers have steadily risen past previous highs to reach an eight-year peak. That means at no point in the entire post-crisis era have there been this many Americans with more than one job.
Critics have often pointed out this flaw in employment data; that showing a drop in unemployment doesn’t necessarily give you the whole picture about how the economy is truly performing. After all, the topline figures don’t describe the kinds of jobs that were created, or even how much they pay. All you see is an uptick or downtick in non-farm payrolls.
These arguments typically include a number known as “U6.” It is the broadest unemployment rate in the U.S., including those who are discouraged or working part-time. But even the U6 definition doesn’t help us see the ground-level discord caused by working multiple jobs.
Many of these people occupy low-level positions in the service sector, but don’t make enough money to cover rising real estate and rental costs. As a result, they end up seeking a part-time job for evening work, or else doing freelance work in the “gig economy.”
The rise of Uber-like tech companies has created an entirely new marketplace for labor. Old norms are shattered under this system, because workers are technically freelancing. They fall between the cracks of workplace protections and benefits, leaving many reliant on a day job for stable paychecks. It is a new paradigm that old statistics fail to incorporate.
Moreover, the rise of artificial intelligence in technology is widening the scope of what robots can accomplish. Their tasks are no longer just a threat to manufacturing, but to the service sector as well. Analysts expect the surge of robot workers to bring down wages across the board, prompting more and more people to occupy multiple jobs.