The Economy Is Awful #32,706: Multiple Jobs and Remote Work

July 02, 2024

One of the standard refrains from people pushing the bad economy story, despite the extraordinary streak of low unemployment, is that because of inflation everyone has to work two jobs. This ignores the fact that wages have actually outpaced prices, especially for workers at the lower end of the wage ladder.

But there has in fact been some rise in the number of multiple jobholders as can be seen in the graph below.

There are two obvious points in this graph. First, the current level is not especially high. We are roughly back to the share we saw before the pandemic and well below levels of multiple jobholders in the 1990s.

The second point is that multiple job holding looks to be to some extent a cyclical variable. It increases when the economy is good and more jobs are available. This suggests that many people are not working multiple jobs because they have to, but rather because the good economy gives them the opportunity. When the economy was weaker and jobs were harder to find, they were not able to get a second job.  

There is another dimension to this issue that is not widely appreciated. Our research assistant, Alex Richwine, looked at the share of multiple jobholders who report that they do telework. His analysis found that 36 percent of multiple jobholders report that they do telework. (This is from the January to March Current Population Survey.)

Teleworkers accounted for 23 percent of all workers over this period. While the share of multiple jobholders overall is roughly 5.2 percent, for the 77 percent of workers who do not report being teleworkers it is just 4.3 percent, a lower figure than at any point prior to the pandemic.

This indicates that multiple job holding today is to a substantial extent a result of the increased opportunities created by teleworking. While people did do telework prior to the pandemic, opportunities for telework exploded as a result of the pandemic.

One outcome of this explosion in telework is that more people are able to take a second or third job, if they want one. That sounds like a good thing to me.    


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