July 17, 2022
In yet another episode in the Washington Post’s efforts to tell readers the economy is horrible, in spite of unemployment being near a half century low, the paper told us about the problem of multiple job holders.
It headlined a piece on multiple job holders: “Workers are picking up multiple jobs just to pay for food and gas.” The subhead told readers: “Prices are rising faster than wages, and more Americans than ever are working two full-time jobs simultaneously.”
There are two problems with this story. The first is that while it is true that more workers are now working two full time jobs than ever before, that is not true if we look at this as a percentage of the labor force. A larger share of the workforce was working two full time jobs last June, and the percent of the labor force hits its high point in July 2000, as can be seen.
The more important problem is that increases in the share of the workforce working to full-time jobs seem to be associated with good economic times. The data are erratic, but we see the share rise in the 1990s boom, fall in the 2001 recession, rise somewhat with the housing boom of the 00s, and then fall again in the Great Recession.
From the data, it looks like people are more likely to work two full-time jobs when they can get two full-time jobs, when the economy is strong. In effect, the Washington Post highlighted a sign of economic strength as evidence of a bad economy.