Share This Page

Millions have to cobble together jobs to get by

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Part-time. Temporary. Contract. Just-in-time. Two jobs. Three jobs. Even four.

It's the new normal for many in the American workforce.

Monte Railey divides time as city clerk for Missouri City, Mo., as an elementary school handyman, as a laborer for a remodeler, and as a hardware store clerk.

Jan Peck shoehorns work as a massage therapist and teaches Zumba after her part-time hours working online for a Canadian insurance company.

Since the Great Recession and subsequent “jobless recovery,” it's less likely than it used to be that you or your neighbor holds a single, full-time job.

Today, there are more people like Terrance Wise of Kansas City, Mo., who after a 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift at a Burger King often takes a city bus to a Pizza Hut for a 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift. He works at one or both locations every day of the week.

“One of the hardest parts is missing family,” Wise said. “My children are 11, 10 and 8, and they know Daddy has to go to work every day.”

Other drawbacks: It's hard to look for a better job when he's always working, Wise said. And he dreads getting sick or injured. He said he can't afford health insurance, and the last time he had a routine checkup was 14 years ago.

And there are more workers like Concepcion Sanchez who, after a full day at an insurance company job in downtown Kansas City, heads out immediately to a second, part-time job at a bank.

“I'm helping my kids with their college and other expenses,” said the 46-year-old woman. “I'm lucky to have the energy.”

The harder part, Sanchez said, is the loss of family time. Her husband, a machine operator, works seven days a week on mandatory overtime.

“I don't remember the last time we went to church as a family,” she said. “And we haven't had a family vacation for five years.”

It's easy to see why the work world has changed. Stung by the depths of the economic downturn and uncertain about taxes, government spending and the consumer pocketbook, employers increasingly are choosing greater flexibility in hiring.

Because they're hesitant about adding full-time employees, employers are turning to a contingent, or just-in-time, workforce. It's easier that way to staff up or down and schedule work shifts precisely when needed.

A part-time or contingent workforce allows for more than efficient scheduling. Employers also save on benefits costs, which generally are paid to full-time employees but not part-time or as-needed workers. It's a big savings: In many organizations, benefits account for 30 percent of payroll costs.

Post-2009, many employers also have cut or held the line on employee pay — effectively propelling some full-time workers to moonlight. Household living costs have risen, even if paychecks haven't.

These hiring patterns make sense for employers, but they're stinging job hunters and workers alike. Unable to find or replace full-time positions, workers have seen their household incomes dwindle along with self-confidence. The new normal finds MBAs scrambling for part-time work in the aisles of big-box retailers.

This new normal suits some workers fine. Juggling family care or school is easier with reduced or flexible work hours.

Nicole Dingley loves her part-time work with a publishing company. It gives her mom time with her three children. As a bonus, she works out of her home.

Another contented part-timer is Mary Wilkens. She's happy that her substitute teaching work lets her spend time with her mother or pursue creative outlets.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.