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Nov 14, 2014

It’s been an ongoing question nobody has a good answer to: Why don’t more people feel good about the economy given the drop in the unemployment rate to nearly pre-recession levels?

Well, according to the latest survey from CareerBuilder, it’s because many part-time workers who want permanent, full-time employment simply can’t find it.

According to the study, it’s pretty simple: 32 percent of part-time workers say they want to work full-time but haven’t been able to land a full-time job.

A struggle to find full-time work

Of those part-timers, 31 percent say they are the sole breadwinner in their household, and 39 percent say they struggle to make ends meet financially. One in four part-time workers who want full-time jobs said they currently work two or more jobs.

Think about that for a minute: One-third of all part-time workers want to take on full-time work but either can’t find it or don’t get hired when they do.

“Though we’re seeing an uptick in full-time, permanent hiring, many workers are still having difficulty finding positions in their field of expertise,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, in a press release about the survey.

She adds: “For some, a part-time job is just a means to a paycheck; for others, it’s a preferred work arrangement or stepping stone. Those looking to make the transition to full-time employment should approach a part-time job as an opportunity to learn a new skill set, make new professional connections or explore a new career path. In addition, they should seek out companies they are interested in working for and join their talent networks so they will be first to hear about new job openings with those companies.”

Why they can’t find a regular job

That all sounds good, but easier said than done — particularly when you look at some of the reasons why part-time workers give for why they can’t find full-time, permanent work:

  • There aren’t as many jobs available in my field as there were pre-recession (given by 54 percent);
  • I don’t have the skills necessary for in-demand jobs (51 percent);
  • I haven’t looked for full-time jobs on a regular basis ( 31 percent);
  • I don’t have the education needed (29 percent).

And just in case you are thinking that these part-timers aren’t really all that motivated, consider this: The survey also found that the majority of these workers (62 percent) say they would be willing to work without pay for an organization for a period of time to prove the value they can bring as a full-time employee.

The changing nature of work

It’s pretty clear that the nature of work is dramatically changing post-recession, and many more people are willing to work a number of part-time jobs to make ends meet. But, it also shows that the traditional Labor Department unemployment report that gets released each month doesn’t do a very good job of quantifying exactly what the national labor picture looks like.

Plus, the current state of the job market seems to punish the newest workers — yes, Millennials — the most. That’s another story for another day, but there seems to be no real national concern that we have a huge generation of workers coming into their prime employment years without a job market that’s ready and willing to offer them regular, full-time employment.

Something needs to happen here. Maybe more surveys like this will help us to understand that.

The CareerBuilder survey was conducted online in the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 301 U.S. part-time workers (employed part-time, not full-time) between ­­Aug. 11 and Sept. 5, 2014. With a pure probability sample of 301, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have sampling error of +/- 5.65 percentage points.

Deciding not to lay off workers

Of course, there’s more than the latest survey about why part-timers can’t find full-time work in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • What the Labor Department’s war on internships has done. I’ve written before about the war on internships that the U.S. Department of Labor seems hell bent on waging, and the terrible consequences of them doing that. Well here’s more evidence of the impact of that, according to The Wall Street Journal: “The number of recent graduates who completed an internship that applied what they were learning in college has ticked up only slightly from a previous generation, a survey showed, even as employers are putting increasing value on real-world experience. n a Gallup-Purdue survey of 30,000 graduates last winter, 35 percent of students who finished school between 2010 and 2014 reported having an internship or a job related to their field of study. That represents an increase of just 4 percentage points from the class of 1990.” 
  • “I am not going to lay off workers.” The New York Times‘ engaging You’re the Boss blog let’s a small business owner get into the reasons why he has decided NOT to lay off workers despite financial setbacks. It’s an interest look at the mindset of a business owner as they struggle with a tough decision that impacts the very livelihood of his staff.
  • How government work standards are laughable in the real world. Bloomberg BusinessWeek contrasts how government looks at workplace efficiency versus the private sector response. And, it is about what you would expect. “When corporate programs fail to meet expectations, management typically pulls the plug. When government programs fail to meet expectations, government officials typically double-down, increasing funding or creating another program — perhaps in the same agency, perhaps elsewhere—with substantially the same mandate. Consider the Government Accountability Office’s annual report to Congress on “Government Efficiency and Effectiveness,” which focuses on opportunities to reduce “fragmentation, overlap and duplication” in government. The GAO report applauds the executive branch and Congress because they “addressed nearly 20 percent” of the 360 efficiency measures GAO previously recommended and “partially addressed” another 60 percent-plus. The new report, meanwhile, proposes 64 additional actions and identifies 11 new areas of concern.”