Full-Time And Part-Time Employment: A Deeper Look

Here is a closer look since 2007. The reversal began in 2008, but it accelerated in the Fall of that year following the September 15th bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. In this seasonally adjusted data, the reversal peaked in January of 2010.

Even though some employees shifted to Part-time from Full-time as a result of the pandemic, it was only about 3% of those working Part-time. Full-time employment peaked in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly as a result of a shift in the type of full-time work available. The trend after the Great Recession has continued despite the pandemic and the two types of work seem to be growing farther apart.

A Closer Look at the Core Workforce, Ages 25-54

The two charts above are seasonally adjusted and include the entire workforce, which the CPS defines as age 16 and over. A problem inherent in using this broadest of cohorts is that it includes the population that adds substantial summertime volatility to the full-time/part-time ratio, namely, high school and college students. Also, the 55-plus cohort includes a subset of employees that opt for part-time employment during the decade following the historical peak earning years (ages 45-54) and as a transition toward retirement.

The next chart better illustrates summertime volatility by focusing on the change since 2007 in full- and part-time employment for the 25-54 workforce. Note that the government's full-time/part-time data for this cohort is only available as non-seasonally adjusted. To help us recognize the summer seasonality, the June-July-August markers are shown in a lighter color. These months are more subject to temporary shifts from part-time to 35-plus hours of employment. The 12-month moving averages for the two series help us identify the slope of the trend in recent years. The moving averages are, so to speak, moving in the right direction, but they have yet to meet continuously.

Like the 16-and-over version, this chart depicts a current situation that is considerably different from the era before the Financial Crisis, although the trend has been slowly improving since early 2010, as illustrated by the dotted-line moving averages. In this is non-seasonally adjusted data, the summer months are obvious outliers, with full-time employment spiking during the June-August period.

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