Make us your home page

With dramatic rise of part-time jobs, an imperiled middle class

Will part-time work soon become the shaky foundation of our economy?

A story in Monday's Wall Street Journal, headlined The Shift to Part-Time, explains how many restaurants and other hospitality businesses are trying to shift more of their workforces from full to part time to minimize the financial impact of the federal government's new health care plan known as the Affordable Care Act. That law requires by 2015 (delayed from 2014) employers with 50 or more full-time workers to offer affordable insurance to employees working 30 or more hours a week.

Firms (and eligible employees) that do not do so will face fines.

For some companies anticipating sharp hikes in health care costs, a scramble has begun to employ more part-timers — those working less than 30 hours a week.

One local strategy, devised by St. Petersburg human resource outsourcing firm Modern Business Associates, would help different area restaurants and fast-food franchises "share" employees. The idea is to keep each worker under 30 hours per employer while letting employees work more than 30 hours per week. The test program will involve about 500 employees of both chain and local restaurants looking to retain their full-time employees without counting them as such. Modern Business Associates' Mark Lettelleir says the program — a software data base — will be tested this year and be in place to start 2014.

Is this a trend confined to restaurants or perhaps hotels? Or are the cost benefits of part-time work likely to sweep over more of the economy?

Staffing companies like Tampa's Kforce have been adamant for many months that part-time jobs are going to be big in the coming years.

It's not just because of new expenses from the Affordable Care Act. Businesses shocked by the severity and painful downsizing of the last recession are still wary of bringing on full-timers when part-timers can be hired and let go easily as the economy demands.

Job numbers also support this trend. Nationwide in 2013, companies have added 93,000 part-time employees a month on average compared with just 22,000 full-time workers per month.

In 2012, the opposite was true. Employers added 31,000 part-timers per month on average versus 171,000 full-time workers.

A spike in part-time work dominated June's unemployment figures, released earlier this month. Headlines about the nation's jobless rate remaining flat at 7.6 percent and the economy adding 195,000 jobs missed a critical point. In fact, no net full-time jobs were created last month. The net number of full-time jobs actually fell by at least 162,000 in June.

All of the net new jobs created last month were part-time jobs, a point made by Forbes over the weekend.

Maybe the shift in jobs for the first half of 2013, and those for June, are just part of a rough but brief cycle we're going through. Maybe full-time jobs will rise along with economic confidence.

But what if they do not? What if part-time work becomes more of the norm?

Incomes will stagnate or shrink. Opportunities to advance will be harder to come by. Then many in the middle class really are in peril.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

With dramatic rise of part-time jobs, an imperiled middle class 07/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 6:40am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself


    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    Artist rendering of phase two of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space and a gas station, among other things.
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
  2. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    State data shows FHP troopers are not writing violations for speeding or other infractions like they did back in 2011, even though there's 1 million more licensed drivers in Florida.
  3. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze


    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in


    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump


    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)