More workers choose part-time employment

Burned Out, More Americans Are Turning to Part-Time Jobs

The number of people working part time rose by 1.2 million in December and January—most were people who chose it. ‘25 hours is the new 35.’

By Lauren Weber, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 2023

The number of Americans working part time rose by 1.2 million in December and January compared with the preceding months, according to the Labor Department. Most of that increase — 857,000 workers — was driven by people who worked part time by choice, not because they were unable to find full-time work or their hours were cut…

In total, 16.3% of the 160 million Americans who were employed in January worked part time hours, which the Labor Department defines as anything less than 35 hours in a week. … The data could signal a significant shift in Americans’ attitudes toward work. One notable difference between the current job expansion and earlier ones is the share of people working part time by choice, or for family or personal reasons—all of which the Labor Department calls “noneconomic reasons”—rather than out of necessity. …

Many of the traditional downsides to part-time work haven’t changed. Part-time workers generally earn less for similar work than their full-time counterparts, and typically don’t qualify for benefits such as healthcare coverage… [end quote]

The FRED database doesn’t break down employment to the level of “part-time for non-economic reasons by age group.”

I can see how part-time work would be a benefit for retirees who would like to increase their income or just keep busy. Unfortunately, lower-income people over age 65 (the poor elders I see in TaxAide who get meager Social Security and work to supplement their income) don’t qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit like under-65 workers. It’s hardly worthwhile for higher-income older people to work since their Social Security will be taxed so they will almost be working for free. (I volunteer because I don’t want to take a paid job away from someone who needs one.)

The issue is different for younger people. The Labor Force Participation Rate of prime-age workers (25 to 55) fell dramatically during Covid and has still not fully recovered. People are considered “employed” if they have worked even one hour during a month so this includes part-timers.

The decline in the Labor Force Participation Rate of prime-age males (25 to 55) since 1960 is really shocking.

Between the lower Labor Force Participation Rate and the switch from full-time to part-time work it shouldn’t be surprising that younger people are having financial problems.

Americans in Their 30s Are Piling On Debt

Overall burden is up more than for any other age group

By Gina Heeb and AnnaMaria Andriotis, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 2023

American millennials in their 30s have racked up debt at a historic clip since the pandemic. Their total balances hit more than $3.8 trillion in the fourth quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a 27% jump from late 2019. That is the steepest increase of any age group. It is also their fastest pace of debt accumulation over a three-year period since the 2008 financial crisis.

The debt buildup could worsen a generational wealth gap that was already on the rise for millennials. Many started their careers during the 2007-09 recession with no bargaining power, crimping their earnings ever since. Even when the economy is doing well, some have said that they feel as though their financial gains are fragile. That can leave them hesitant or less able to take risks that would power the broader economy, such as starting a business or investing…

The three-year government moratorium on federal student-loan payments could expire as soon as this summer, and a debt-forgiveness plan rolled out by the Biden administration last year remains held up in court. Americans in their 30s owe the most student debt compared with other age groups…[end quote]

The WSJ article has a chart showing credit-card balances of different age cohorts. The average credit-card balance for millennial borrowers was about $6,750 in January, up 26% from three years earlier and close to the average for Baby Boomers. Gen-Xers average almost $9,000 in credit card debt. The interest must eat them alive.

The WSJ article discusses people who have only one part-time job out of choice. They don’t discuss the people who are forced to take part-time jobs (often more than one to make ends meet) who are defined as “working part-time for economic reasons.”

Some lenders have set aside rainy-day funds to cover for the possibility that, when federal student-loan payments resume, more borrowers will become delinquent because they could have less money to put toward their credit-card and other bills. The amount of debt that could be discharged in bankruptcy is building and could affect lenders.

@steve203 frequently rants about the unfairness of a system where workers are “forced” into jobs by evil “JCs” (job creators). Well, hello! That’s life and has always been that way! It boggles the mind to hear that workers are “burned out” by their cushy office jobs when earlier generations worked 12 hour days, six days a week, in steel mills and slaughter houses.

People have to work to maintain their chosen lifestyles. Previous generations worked long hours and often lived in multi-generational households. Currently, over half of young adults (18- to 29-year-olds) are living with their parents.

The Macro trend of workers choosing part-time employment while increasing debt loads is dangerous to future financial and social stability. A demand-driven economy like ours needs workers with healthy positive cash flow to continue household and family formation and corporate earnings growth.




Perhaps they will pay off their debts with their inheritance.



Hmmm, I’ve seen this before. When did we change from supply-side to demand? Or are we just dealing with context here and not terms per se?

To the point: A demand-driven economy like ours needs workers with healthy positive cash flow to continue household and family formation and corporate earnings growth. Something will have to change. A) Make work (The “real work” implied) more worth doing or, B) Bring out the whip.


Perhaps I should have written “consumer spending driven” instead of “demand driven” to avoid the potentially political confusion.

Consumer spending makes up roughly 70% of U.S. gross domestic product. That is why I wrote “demand-driven” since consumers won’t buy if they don’t have the money, regardless of the supply of goods and services.

Real personal consumer expenditures are the key to the expanding economy. The Covid stimulus boosted the economy out of the rut but if consumers are tapped out with insufficient income and excess debt their spending will be inhibited.

The term “supply side economics” is a political ploy to support tax cuts, especially to corporations and high income earners. It has never resulted in increased real GDP since the tax cuts didn’t put significantly increased spending power in average consumer pockets.



You must not have worked for luminaries like I had for bosses. My “cushy” office job at Office Depot had me working from noon to about 1am, every week day, 52 weeks/year. I was not allowed to use the vacation benefit I had supposedly earned either. I was required to be there every day.

At RS, you can say all my job required was standing around, talking. Yeah, right. In the dog days of summer, I worked a 60 hour/6 day week. Over the holidays, I worked an 80 hour/7 day week. And, again, I was not allowed to use my vacation time, year after year.

Steve…surprised to see a personal attack from Wendy


Visa and Mastercard would beg to differ.

You may have missed the point. Key words: “insufficient” and “excess.” At some point even Visa & MC reach their “happiness” limit and limit the customers’ happiness limits.

Sorry, @steve203, I didn’t mean this as a personal attack. You are one of my Favorite Fools from many years back.

I’m sorry that your work experience was so horrible. Why didn’t you just quit and work somewhere else?


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Geez, where do I begin, to tell the story of how … etc etc etc…?

" rants about the unfairness of a system where workers are “forced” into jobs by evil “JCs” (job creators)

That’s not worth complaining about? If it were unfairness in some other area you can bet people (maybe… you. …?) would be complaining something like “That’s not FAIR!”

It is human nature seek fairness. The Rich seek it in the form of all the money and no taxes no regulations and no laws except those that benefit them. Others may seek it in the form of a 5 day work week. Let’s face it, we do not have freedom and choice. The list of choices is handed to us and we only get to select the ones we get to select. Ergo, we are indeed forced. Not all forcing is the same.

Did grandpaw work 25 hour days 8 days a week at an even lousier job? Ok, I’ll say “yes, he did” . And Granmaw too. Maybe she worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory? Until she married grandpaw and then only had to keep house and such. That is a sort of argument non sequiteur. Grandpa in his world is not us in our world. Let’s see we’ve always been slaves so I guess the moral of the story is we must continue that way because it’s always been that way. In fact wasn’t it the future granpaws of the world who unionized, striked, (struck?) and even rioted because … the work world wasn’t fair? Or were they just ungrateful and lazy and didn’t choose better, easier, higher paying safer, more secure jobs?

“They way it’s always been”, eh? So, can we not see fit to make any progress? I mean that’s one of the things “work” is supposed to be for. Why is this work thing subject to an eternal staus quo?

Previous generations worked long hours and often lived in multi-generational households. Currently, over half of young adults (18- to 29-year-olds) are living with their parents.

So is this a good thing or a bad thing? Every time somebody brings up Gen Z or whatever it is, living in the basement they usually use it in a demeaning way.


I did quit, repeatedly. Quit the pump seal company after 3 years. Lousy treatment at RS, but the pay eased it a bit, until they cut pay to ribbons. Quit and went to OD. Got pi$$ed off at being everyone’s b!tc4 at the store, so applied for a posting in a warehouse. Got the warehouse job, and, again, was everyone’s b!tc4, so applied for a spot in the furniture dealership department. Laid off when that department was closed. That made a total of 6 years at OD, in three different jobs. Went to Workplace Integrators (another Steelcase dealership). The place had a RIF every year, so, that, plus advancing age, made taking whatever they threw at me seem the more expedient move. Six years as everyone’s b!tc4, and the company went out of business. The moving company was a bit better, but, as soon as the numbers said I didn’t have to put up with “JCs” anymore, I was gone.

It crossed my mind to part time at Blockbuster, during the winter, for the free movie rental benefit, as much as anything else, but decided against it, because every parttime job I ever had took over my life, because I was being called in constantly, on a moment’s notice. Crossed my mind some years later to apply for a 2 day/week job at an Office Depot store checking in freight, but, passed, because experience says I would be called in constantly, rather than only working two days/week.

My conversations with fast food workers currently say being hired as part time, and actually working part time, are two different things. They are so short handed that people are being called in and pushed to crazy hours, constantly. Very reminiscent of my time working in a blowing alley in the 70s: I was hired in to work 6-11 three nights/week. Reality: being called in, on a moment’s notice. Didn’t matter if I had not had supper, didn’t matter if I had homework to do, didn’t matter if I had an 8am class in the morning. That 12-15 hr/week job often went 30-35 hours/week.

Yes, you can be burned out doing a desk job, if you are treated like a rented mule.

Steve…the sum of life’s experience, like everyone else here


UFB, the average credit card debt.

Weight it and look at why, you will find medical debts.

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Many (if not most) of the young adults living in their parents’ basements are not forming stable independent families as previous generations did at their age. Sometimes babies appear on the scene but that is often carelessness.

On a Macro scale, that isn’t the path to a strong society.


The elephant population in South Africa was decimated after the poaching of 10s of thousands of elephants per decade.

The solution was to provide green bushes between waterholes and of course more water. The elephant population rebounded. The food and water allowed for calving.

Supply side economics has stripped the very basis of our economy just as Zs come of age. Like the depression babies before them the future is actually quite bright for them because the group faces a large long upside. We will come out of this mess a lot stronger.

But who is responsible? Those who have objected to an industrial policy, to taxation, and to honest wages. Honest wages? People know when they can not afford to hire people and do anyway. The government must intercede, $7.25 an hour in poor states keeps the states backwards. A massive injustice. Using people was the national past time. If you can not afford labor please go out of business. Then get a job. You are not special regardless of Tucker Carlson.

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So, why are they doing this? Maybe it’s The Free Market? Market forces? Why “blame” them? They’re doing what they can, what they feel is best for them. At the time and in the available environment. Or are they, en masse, resisting stable relationships that are always and everywhere available to them (I chuckle a bit here) simply because they wish to be cheap? Be lazy? Hate mom and dad and are teaching them a lesson? The communists are winning? Not enough Jesus? If you want anybody to do anything you have to make it worth their while. Ya know like tax cuts and no expectations for rich people and “the transgendered”. (By that I mean business are really just like people, ha ha, get it?) Give them something to work with and work for. (Other than “don’t starve today.”) They’re doing it for reasons. Those reasons are not the path to a stable society. They do not create the environment. But they must react to it.

I’ll take a stab at this.

DW is employed at a small NE College in a Career counselor role. Her primary responsibility is to help guide college age students to prepare for a career. After a career in this role and previously in Elementary Ed (as an Elementary Ed teacher) she is happily joining me in retirement at the end of June 2023.

Having worked with Millennials and Gen Z students for the past 25 years or so, she’s amazed at the “dumbing down” of the students that she sees.

I wrote previously about the fact that colleges and universities, ever having to fill classrooms with paying students, continue to lower the threshold of admitting standards. So we see more and more folks that would most likely have not made it into college previously, now attending college. Many as they are called “first gen” but not all - that’s for sure.

My wife sees kids that cannot write, they cannot use many features of MS Word (like bulleted lists, indentation, table formatting, etc. for resumes) or Excel for tracking their job search activities. They even have trouble googling topics that they need to research for where to find jobs. (Sometimes she thinks they are really clueless - but she is incredibly patient with all of them)!!

For many who are there as first year students, she has to put up with parents who still want to pressure the adult employee (my wife) to hound their kid to make an appointment with the career counseling office to start to think about career choices. She has to remind these parents that the student is now an adult, and they do not / will not chase the student to come into their office. BTW - the team in the office that my wife works in offer MANY outreach programs throughout the year that reach out to kids via social media, cafeteria tabling sessions, handing out “swag”, employer job fair days, etc. There are PLENTY of opportunities for these kids to take advantage of career guidance and opportunities to intern and interview.

They even offer suits for both male and female students that have been donated to the school so that those who might not own, or cannot afford an “interviewing suit” can borrow them. The only cost they ask for is to have it dry cleaned before returning it to the office.

DW thinks that many of the students that she sees today have been brought up so coddled and so tied to their video games / smartphones that they do not have the skills or motivation to do things themselves. Many come from the “everyone get a trophy” life which is nowhere like adult reality. They also come from homes where the parents did much of the heavy lifting to get the kid to where they are now, and without Mom and Dad, the kids really do struggle to find their way.

OTOH, she’s also amazed by the students that DO come into their office as freshmen wanting to prepare for the outside world. They want internships, they want an awesome resume, they want to learn interviewing skills. And those kids usually get great jobs with starting pay that is WAY MORE than what DW makes!!

Another high traffic direction from students is to “go to grad school”. Many of these students choose career paths which do not require grad school education to get their first job in the field. Some do, and that’s legitimate, but others seem to choose the grad school route to avoid having to get out there and face the real world. Not only that, but many cannot afford the expense for grad school and pile on the debt to pay for it. That’s a shame.

So DW and I believe that it’s all in the way that the student (and young adult) is brought up in terms of taking responsibility for themself, seeking out the resources that they need to help them along the way and making things happen for themselves. This is the land of opportunities still - and the opportunities are there - you just need to prepare for them.

When DW and I see young adults still living with their parents we attribute it to a lack of motivation - the jobs and opportunities are out there - they may just have parents that want to continue to manage their kids (helicopter parents well into the kids 20’s still) and the kid takes advantage of the situation where they prioritize month-long European self-discovery tours, working part-time at the local gym, or maybe even doing nothing but playing video games in the parent’s basement.

How many people know what I’m talking about? How many people agree, or want to throw me overboard for even composing this post?

I’m interested in the feedback.
→ I can tell you what our kids are doing, but I’ll leave that for another post on another day


You should see some of the 50-something male coworkers I had, who insisted they were completely unable to run any household appliances. I guess that is a “traditional American value” that men are raised clueless, and dependent on women to take care of them?



@38Packard thank you for writing this post. I agree with you 100% and appreciate the front-line data from your wife’s professional experience.


It’s a little surprising to me that there exist kids that can’t “google”. After all, they’ve lived all their lives (teen, young adult) with google in their pocket! Heck, all they have to do is talk to their device and it’ll look stuff up for them.

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I don’t know. A lot of people in the previous generation lived in farmhouses with their parents, or in tenant houses on the same farm. My dad certainly did. A lot of my mom’s nieces and nephews lived on their parent’s land, some of them in renovated 100-year-old houses and a couple in trailers. My kids live with their parents, and they have three sons. Circumstances change people’s expectations. People have fewer kids now because they want fewer kids, mostly.

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They know how to mechanically ask google anything. The problem is, they don’t know the question to ask to get the information that they are looking for.


DW Asks: What are you planning to do after graduation?
Student says: I want to go to grad school.
DW asks: Have you done any research on which type of grad school programs you’d like to pursue?
Student asks: How do I do that? (not meaning mechanically, but logically)
DW: Explains how to frame a question to google using some basic logic like starting at step one. (current major, high career interest, other specifics that are important to them)

Here’s an example of how she may guide a student who majors in English and has an interest (minor?) in Film and Media to start the search for grad programs :

She’s blessed with may more patience than I!!
→ BTW, I also see this in my SCORE volunteering work with younger clients