Posted on Wed, Sep. 14, 2011
MARICE COHN BAND / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
Chaim LieberPerson, center, has taken several part time jobs while he looks for full time work, including working for the Miami International Book Fari. Here he helps at the unveiling of the poster for the book fair Monday at City Hall Restaurant in Miami.
Last week I met Luis, a Miami father of two young children, who sits atop his lawn mower like it’s a throne. Luis used to be a mortgage banker, but he’s been out of work for more than 20 months. Like others, he has become frustrated with the job hunt.
One day, while Luis was mowing his lawn, a neighbor offered him a few bucks to do his yard. Word spread, plentiful rain caused Miami lawns to grow tall and Luis now has cobbled together enough business to consider mowing lawns a part-time job.
“At least it’s some income,” said the humbled executive who asked me not to use his full name.
Today the face of the part-time worker is drastically different from what it was only a few years ago. It used to look more like mine, a mother who wanted to better balance her work and family. It might also have been the college student who needed to earn income while in school.
But the recession and high unemployment have changed the once coveted status. Increasingly, the face of the part-time worker has become the dad jumping at any chance of income or the college graduate desperate for an opportunity to get a foot in the door. It might be the loyal worker whose weekly hours have been cut to save the company a few bucks or the desperate former executive patching together jobs to pay rent.
As of September, about 8.8 million Americans are working part time while desiring full-time work. That number is double what it was in 2007, just before the recession began. And, another roughly 2.6 million people want work — even part-time work — but have stopped actively looking. Combined, the “underemployed” part-timers who want full-time work; and “discouraged” people who have stopped looking make up 16.2 percent of working-age Americans. The Labor Department compiles the figure to assess how many people want full-time work and can’t find it — a number the unemployment rate alone doesn’t capture.
“There are a ton of desperate people who can’t get hours they need to provide for their families,” said Heidi Shierholz, labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. For the last few years there hasn’t been any significant improvement.
That’s the case for Chaim LieberPerson, a former parochial grade school principal. LieberPerson dashes between the office of the Miami Book Fair International and his children’s school for dismissal. He’s on call to handle childcare now that his wife is the full-time wage earner.
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