A Closer Look at Full-time and Part-time Employment

Let's take a closer look at the latest employment report numbers on full- and part-time employment. Buried near the bottom of table A-9 of the government's employment situation summary are the numbers for full- and part-time workers, with 35-or-more hours as the arbitrary divide between the two categories. The source is the monthly current population survey (CPS) of households. The focus is on total hours worked regardless of whether the hours are from a single or multiple jobs.

The Labor Department has been collecting this since 1968, a time when only 13.5% of US employees were part-timers. That number peaked at 20.1% in January 2010. Almost fifteen years later, the total part-time workers has fallen to 17.7%.

Here is a visualization of the trend in the 21st century, with the percentage of full-time employed on the left axis and the part-time employed on the right. We see a conspicuous crossover during the Great Recession. Since early 2016, the two cohorts have slowly drifted apart, with full-time employment gaining. Interestingly, this trend continued even during the COVID global pandemic and recession. As of March 2024, full-time employment made up 82.3% of all employment, its lowest level since April 2018.

Full time and part time employment since 2000

Here's a longer-term view of this same chart.

Full time and part time employment since 1986