While the number of unemployed workers has held steady at around 14 million in recent months, another telling measure of frustration in the labor market -- the number of underemployed individuals -- rose for a third consecutive month in September, by almost a half of a million people.
Almost 9.3 million Americans are considered underemployed, defined by the
Put together, almost 26 million Americans are either unemployed, marginally attached to the labor force, or involuntarily working part-time -- a number experts say is unprecedented.
"The labor force is substantially underutilized relative to what we experienced in most of the post-World War II period," says
From 2003 to 2007, before the latest recession, O'Keefe says the number of people working part-time for economic reasons as a percent of the labor force averaged about 3 percent, or approximately four million people. Over the past 12 months, the average has been about 6 percent.
To get a more accurate understanding of the struggles that many Americans face, that base should be broadened even further, says
"The labor market is just not delivering for Americans what it should be delivering," Osterman says. "The weaknesses are on multiple dimensions -- one is just the quantity of jobs, and the other is the quality of jobs that do exist."
Economists say the high number of underemployed workers is a sign of the tough economic times. "One of the things that seems to be happening these days is that companies in an uncertain environment are tending to take people on part-time instead of full-time because they don't want to make that full-time commitment," says
That's left millions of Americans trying to make ends meet by working multiple part-time jobs. "There are a lot of people today who are self-employed, and they go through periods of their life where they're cobbling together various jobs or projects or consulting assignments or temporary work," says
For a few weeks earlier this year, Schnell was able to land two copyediting jobs at two regional Patch.com sites, but
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