By Ann Belser
There are nights for Lorenzo Owens when sleep is tough to schedule.
Owens, 31, works some weekends until 3 a.m. washing dishes, then goes back to work at 7 a.m. as a prep cook. In his free time, he sells cooking knives to friends and family.
None of his three jobs have full-time hours.
Nearly 2 million people work multiple part-time jobs, a number that has been slowly growing since 2001. Then, 1.6 million people were working multiple part-time jobs without primary full-time work.
An article published this month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the overall number of people who have been working more than one job, which includes those with full-time jobs who moonlight with a part-time job, has fallen since the 1990s.
The author of the Bureau of Labor Statistics study, Etienne Lale, an assistant professor at the University of Bristol in Bristol, England, said it is not clear why the overall rate of working multiple jobs is down, but that the trends did not seem to correlate with economic booms or recessions.
The study, which includes data from 1994 through 2013, found a high percentage of people with two jobs are widowed, single or divorced (5.6 percent of all job holders).
Another group that has a high percentage of multiple jobs, at 6 percent, is people whose educational levels are college or higher. An example of highly educated people working more than one job is university instructors with doctorates who teach at more than one school. Many universities have replaced full-time tenured professors with part-time adjuncts at a fraction of the salaries.
Lale also found that while single women are more likely to work multiple jobs than married women, the opposite is true for men: married men are more likely to work multiple jobs than single men.
“Women are disproportionately represented in the part-time labor force,” said Claire McKenna, a policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project in New York City.
The part-time issue hits women harder than men because two-thirds of the workers who are working multiple part-time jobs without full-time employment are women.
In addition, a study by the employment research group found a higher percentage of women are in the involuntary part-time work force. That means they work part-time either because they can’t find a full-time job or because their job, which should have full-time hours, doesn’t have enough work to support that.
The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s study noted that most people working multiple jobs are doing to meet expenses or to get out of debt.
Having more than one job becomes a job in itself as people have to keep track of their complex schedules.
Amber Ricci, 19, has two part-time coaching jobs and a third job as a receptionist. She also is finishing cosmetology school.
For a while, she tried to keep her schedule on her smartphone, but it was too cumbersome to add and delete on the electronic calendar. Now she has two paper calendars so she can just cross out work when her hours change and write the new information down.
“You have to prioritize one (job) and then schedule the others around it,” she said.
Owens was recently confused about his schedule and wound up arriving to work at 7 p.m. when he should have been in at 5 p.m.
Between his two restaurant jobs, he usually puts in 40 hours of work a week. Selling knives comes during what he calls his own time, time spent working for yet another company.
Having multiple jobs, McKenna noted, also uses up time and expenses.
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For instance having two jobs increases the cost and time spent commuting. Another stress is having to navigate two or more work cultures and sets of workplace rules.
For lower wage workers who do not have some of the flexibility of white collar jobs, childcare and family issues can add to the stress.
In 1994, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started to keep track of part-time employment, 22 percent of the people working part-time had multiple part-time jobs without a single full-time gig. Now that percentage is up to 27 percent as workers at all education levels are struggling to get full-time work.
Elise Gould, a labor economist for the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization, said the phenomena of workers cobbling together jobs to get to a 40-hour work week is a sign of the weakness of the economy.
“We’re in a place where the employers hold all the cards. A place where workers can’t get full-time jobs if they want them,” she said.
Even the job numbers for March were weak, Gould said, with just 126,000 jobs added to the national economy. In an environment where there are still nearly twice as many job seekers as there are jobs, businesses have little incentive to accommodate workers with better hours or schedules.
“That’s why people are trying to piece together work still.”