By Michael E. Kanell The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) No doubt it is a great job market out there in terms of numbers, but what types of jobs are being filled? And more importantly, how many jobs do you need to make ends meet?
In the predawn, long before getting to her job as a Marietta teacher, Emily Willard, 28, hits the gym.
A couple times a week, as well as some weekends and school holidays, she's at Total Row in Buckhead, getting a bit of a workout, sure, but that's not why she's there. She's a trainer, leading a group of early morning rowers in their huffing and puffing so she can pick up some extra coin. "It is nice to have money on the side," Willard said.
In Atlanta and nationally, the unemployment rate is plumbing historic lows. Most people looking for a job can find one. But for some, one job isn't enough.
One thing that hasn't changed amid an unprecedented decade of economic growth: About 5% of American workers still have at least one side hustle, according to government statistics, although researchers believe the actual number is higher.
For some it's a choice, but for others it's a necessity. During and after the Great Recession, inflation-adjusted wages fell for several years and they've been up and down since. Last year wage gains barely outstripped inflation.
Among people with multiple jobs, there's also been a marked increase in the share of people with no full-time work, just part-time jobs stitched together, said Anne Polivka, a research chief at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And no matter how low the unemployment rate goes, the juggling of jobs is likely here to stay as "gig economy" work like ride-sharing and dog-walking gain traction.
Young people are more likely than old to have an extra job, with young women more likely than men.
Cahara Murray, 25, is among those working two jobs to make ends meet. "It's a hassle," she said. "It's a second time of day that I have to commute. I would love to have just one job."
Murray works about 45 hours a week at a university, then spends up to 20 hours a week at a business-to-business marketing company.
"I do it because I'm a millennial and I'm poor," she said. "Almost all of my friends have some kind of side hustle."
DATA SUGGEST NO SPIKE IN JOB JUGGLING, DESPITE GIG ECONOMY TALK Since 2010, the number of jobs in Georgia has risen 21.1%, while the number of people employed is up 18.6%. The mismatch means many are doing more than one job, adding up nationally to about 8.06 million workers, according to the BLS.
But despite the hype about the "gig economy," there just isn't proof of a massive shift in how most Americans work, said economist Andrew Garin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has sifted tax data in search of clues.
"This isn't to say the number is low. But people have been struggling to make ends meet in one job for a long time," he said.
An estimated 5.2% of workers had more than one job in 2008, and last year it was 5.1%, according to the BLS. Researchers acknowledge the actual share is probably higher because the estimates are based on surveys that may miss many people, especially younger workers more likely to have side hustles.
It's definitely higher among millennials. Among workers 20 to 24, the share is 5.4%, but 6.8% for women. Among all women, it's 5.6% and among those who have been widowed or divorced, it's 6.5%.
Younger workers could be juggling more jobs because they haven't had much time to build savings, or pay off their student debts. The most recent data from the New York Federal Reserve Bank puts outstanding student loan debt at $1.48 trillion.
While the growing economy has created jobs, many don't pay well, said Lawrence Mishel, distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute.
The success of Lyft and Uber is an indicator, he said, because the companies are constantly losing drivers and signing up more, signaling a reservoir of people who need money.
"It is evidence that the regular job isn't so good," said Mishel.
Half of U.S. workers did not see any salary increase in the last year, estimated Bankrate, which advises consumers on their finances.
CHOICE OR NECESSITY? It is not only millennials who are hustling.
Jackson Faw, 59, runs an Airbnb, drives for ride-hailing companies and has a side hustle to his side hustle contracting directly to drive for some clients.
"When I am asked how many jobs I have, I say, about a dozen," he said. "The dirty little secret is that it's hard to make a living just by driving. I have to work about 60 hours a week. I work every day. Every single day."
He is looking for a lower-stress way to "blend" his various jobs. But he doesn't think he's returning to the corporate world he left when he was laid off five years ago, he has grown accustomed to flexibility. "I would likely not take a job, a traditional job where I'd have to show up in an office."
Gabriella Mooney, 33, also said she is choosing to work more than one job. The East Point resident spends up to 30 hours a week helping to run a company that rents production equipment. She also works 25 hours or more as a personal assistant. And she occasionally does contract work as a graphic designer, small business consultant and gardener.
She's getting divorced, which makes her a single mother with a 2-year-old. "If I could live off less, I would, but I have to take care of my son, and I have to feed myself," Mooney said.
Still, it's not just about the money, she said. "I could easily get a job with a corporation and make a ton of money, but I could hate my life."
Others, though, said they have no choice.
Dylan Loope works at Buckhead's Total Row. He teaches about a dozen classes a week, but at several studios. The 25-year-old is always looking for more classes to pick up, "so I can fill the gaps without having to struggle through."
Asif Lakhani, 29, wishes his work situation were a bit more straightforward. "I would like to have one job, if I could get the job I want, a job where I wouldn't have to worry about making ends meet every month," he said.
The Roswell resident works about 30 hours a week at a marketing job, does freelance writing and occasionally drives for Lyft.
Lakhani also appears in clubs as a stand-up comic, a gig that, at this point at least, is far from a living wage.
"Sometimes you get a free beer," he said. "Sometimes you work for free." ___ Paycheck erosion, 2006-2019 Average annual increase, weekly earnings: 0.5% Average annual increase, inflation: 1.9% Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank ___ Multiple job holders Total: 8.1 million Men: 4.0 million Women: 4.1 million Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics ___ Reasons Americans have a side hustle Disposable income for spending: 34% Paying for regular living expenses: 30% Income for savings: 27% Other: 5% Source: Bankrate survey ___ How many hustles? People with two jobs: 7.35 million People with three jobs: 601,000 People with at least four jobs: 103,000 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics ___ Multiple jobs, demographically Highest rate by age: Women, age 20-24 Lowest rate by age: Men, age 16-19 Highest rate by ethnicity: African American Lowest rate by ethnicity: Asian Americans Highest rate by marital status: Divorced or widowed women Lowest rate by marital status: Never-married men Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.