Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Portion of U.S. workforce holding multiple jobs declines

Grand Forks resident Said Mohamed works three jobs, as a chef at Sanders 1907, a baker at Amazing Grains and a barista at Urban Stampede. The percentage of people holding multiple jobs has decreased over the past two decades in the U.S. Photo by John Hageman/Grand Forks Herald1 / 4
Grand Forks resident Said Mohamed works three jobs, as a chef at Sanders 1907, a baker at Amazing Grains and a barista at Urban Stampede. The percentage of people holding multiple jobs has decreased over the past two decades in the U.S. Photo by John Hageman/Grand Forks Herald2 / 4
Grand Forks resident Said Mohamed works three jobs, as a chef at Sanders 1907, a baker at Amazing Grains and a barista at Urban Stampede. The percentage of people holding multiple jobs has decreased over the past two decades in the U.S. Photo by John Hageman/Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
Grand Forks resident Said Mohamed works three jobs, as a chef at Sanders 1907, a baker at Amazing Grains and a barista at Urban Stampede. The percentage of people holding multiple jobs has decreased over the past two decades in the U.S. Photo by John Hageman/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

Depending on the time or day, Said Mohamed can be seen either working in the kitchen of Sanders 1907, baking bread at Amazing Grains, or slinging coffee at Urban Stampede.

Mohamed, a 21-year-old Grand Forks resident who was born in Ethiopia, estimates he works 50 to 60 hours a week in those downtown establishments. But unlike other young people who may be working long hours to pay off student loans, Mohamed said he works mainly for the experience, even if he doesn't end up pursuing the food service industry as a career.

"In anything you do, it's good to have as much variety in the same kind of jobs or whatever it is you're doing," he said. "I'm just trying to get any experience I can in any form of cooking or in the service industry."

"I could use the extra money," he added.

Mohamed is part of a shrinking portion of the U.S. workforce that holds two or more jobs, a phenomenon one expert suggested has to do with an aging workforce. Most people who hold two or more jobs, or moonlight, are doing so to earn extra money or to make ends meet, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study showed.

Another recent BLS article showed that the multiple job-holding rate has declined steadily from 6.8 percent in July 1995 to 5 percent at the end of 2013. The findings showed no "clear association" between multiple job-holding rates and the business cycle, although the rate jumped slightly in the first half of the most recent recession.

The BLS article, authored by University of Bristol economics professor Etienne Lale, argues that people with one job had a lower propensity to add another job. Those with two jobs, meanwhile, did not become more likely to drop their second occupation.

"One explanation for these findings is that workers may have become increasingly reliant on alternative sources of income to meet expenses or to pay off debt," Lale wrote. "Another, non-economic explanation is that looking for enjoyment through a second, different job may have become more unusual."

Meanwhile, most American workers have seen hourly wages grow at a far slower rate than productivity since 1979, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Regional, gender differences

Young people, workers with a college education and those were widowed, divorced or separated were all more likely to have several jobs at the end of 2013, BLS reported. Emergency medical technicians, firefighters and post-secondary teachers had the highest rates of multiple jobs.

The gap between the rate of men and women holding a couple jobs has widened over the past two decades, with 4.6 percent of men and 5.4 percent of women moonlighting at the end of 2013. The two were about even in 1999, according to BLS.

Barry Hirsch, an economics professor at Georgia State University who has studied multiple job-holding rates, said it's hard to pinpoint one reason for the declining moonlighting rates. But he suggested it could be partly because of more older workers, who are less likely to take on a second job.

The BLS estimated that one in four workers will be over the age of 55 in 2020.

"If you actually look at who is more likely and less likely to hold multiple jobs, one of the important determinants is age," Hirsch said. "Certainly some of the decline is due to the aging labor force."

North Dakota and the Midwest in general has some of the highest rates of people with several jobs. North Dakota's rate sat at 7.9 percent of the workforce in 2013, while 8 percent of Minnesota workers had multiple jobs in 2013, BLS reported.

Keith Reitmeier, the area manager of the local Job Service North Dakota office, said the region's reliance on the agricultural sector and the seasonal nature of many jobs here can contribute to more people holding two jobs. Moreover, employers struggling with workforce shortages in the face of low unemployment may be enticing multi-taskers with flexible hours.

"There are a lot of jobs available," he said. "And a lot of employers, to try and attempt to fill the workforce, throw something enticing out there for a day or an evening. And that's just a little extra opportunity for states like North Dakota to have multiple job-holders."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

(701) 255-5607
Advertisement
randomness