More settle for short-time work

Four years back, Steve Foundation made about $70,000 a year as a newspaper publisher.

Four weeks ago, Fountain brought home a $129 paycheck after putting in a nine-hour work week at his short term job.

Fountain, 49, of Honesdale, said that he has learned so many things from his experience for a new perspective, as he sipped an iced coffee at a fast-food restaurant in Scranton. “You realize there are always people who are worse off.”

Fountain is amongst millions of Americans who hold part-time jobs, but wish for full-time work.  As per the latest U.S. Department of Labor data, In Pennsylvania, 338,400 people—6% of all workers—have part time jobs because of economic conditions.

Mark Price, Ph.D., an economist at the Keystone Research Center, a labor-supported Harrisburg organization that analyzes the state’s economy said that there are many people finding employment that helps pay the bills but they don’t get as many hours as they would like. He said, “It’s a tough labor market — especially for them.”

Though the state’s jobless rate from April to June averaged 7.4%, the underemployment rate was 13.5%, as per the Department of Labor Statistics. The group, known as the U-6 rate, includes the unemployed, together with people doing part-time jobs for economic reasons and marginally attached workers—those not keenly looking for work, but want a job and have wanted employment in the past year.

“People are taking what they can get to get by and it’s a terrible waste of resources,” Price said.

Gus Faucher, Ph.D., an economist at PNC Financial Services Group, a Pittsburgh-based bank holding company says, “These are obviously people that want to work”. According to him under usual conditions, these people would be doing full-time work.

Fountain, a California native and college graduate with experience in journalism, came to the area in 2007 and would work full-time if he could find it. Ever since 2010, Fountain has worked for Manpower, a job-placement firm periodically in temporary positions at warehouse. After his latest recent nine-hour work at a warehouse, he also landed a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant.

From the time when he was fired in July 2009 after 2 ½ years as a publisher of three regional weekly newspapers, Fountain also has worked as a debt collector, a landscaper, a Census Bureau worker, a political campaign press secretary and a public relations freelancer. He wishes to work full-time in human resources or management.

Fountain said. “I’ve been looking. I’m willing to work my way up again. “I’ve had two out-of-state interviews, but nothing came of it.”

Underemployment is harsher in dozens of states than in Pennsylvania. The highest U-6 rate is Nevada’s 22.1%, followed by California, at 20.3 percent, government data show. The nationwide, second-quarter U-6 rate was 14.7%.

On Friday, the U.S department of Labor, announced data showing the jobless rate for September was 7.8%, a 0.3% drop from the previous month. The national U-6 rate remained at 14.7%.

The data reflects stubbornly high unemployment rate and the reluctance of companies to employ more full-time workers because of sputtering demand and economic uncertainty, as per economists.

“Normally, that number is running around 8 or 9 percent,” Faucher said. “The problem is much more severe than we have had in other recessions.”

The harshness hit quickly in Fountain’s household after his 2009 firing. His wife, Jennifer a former stay-at-home mom to the couple’s three children, went to work around the clock as an insurance agent in December 2009.

“We pulled the plug on cable TV two years ago,” Fountain said. “We have had to hit the IRA once or twice, which is difficult.”

But the impact on his family from parental absences—although he and his wife work at different times—troubles Fountain more than the financial challenges.

Fountain says that his eldest daughter is taking a household responsibility which is really a tough thing. He says, “When I get home tonight, they are going to be in bed. In the morning, I’ll see them for about 20 minutes.”

Fountain said he and his wife anticipate grossing about $55,000 this year in combined income. They are current on their mortgage, taxes and utility bills, but just barely. They have also received monetary help from their families.

Fountain said, “We are living a lot more humbly, a lot more frugally and we appreciate what we have.”

The difficulty the Fountains experience is frequent in many families troubled by involuntary part-time work, Faucher said.

“It means weaker income growth, which means weaker growth in consumer spending,” he said. “It kind of feeds on itself.”