The U.S. labor market has come a long way in recent years, but one key measure has barely budged—reflecting lukewarm wage gains as well as broader shifts in the economy.
Multiple-job holders made up 5.1% of the total employed in August, and the share has been hovering around 5% since the expansion began in mid-2009, Bloomberg reports.
That’s despite unemployment plunging to 3.9%, an almost five-decade low and less than half the level seen in the immediate aftermath of the recession. Monthly hiring gains averaging 207,000 this year are well ahead of the 2017 pace, and the September payrolls report due Friday is projected to reinforce the strong demand for labor amid a shortage of qualified people.
Ryan Sweet, head of monetary policy research at Moody’s Analytics Inc., says that as labor-market slack dissipates and wages accelerate, there will be less incentive for people to work more than one job.
Yet pay gains have been moderate and employers slow to increase hours and benefits, the primary reason why workers continue to rely on a patchwork of jobs. Economists point out that the data also reflect cross-currents including the gig economy, educated people opting for the challenge of doing more, or younger workers seeking variety and a work-life balance.
The picture remains complex, though in recent years there has been evidence that certain groups, such as women, are more likely to take on additional work in a tight labor market, according to Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at jobs-website Indeed’s Hiring Lab.