Underemployment Remains High -- And A Big Problem

underemploymentUnderemployment has been as much a frustrating feature of the recent job market as the nation's high unemployment rate.

What makes a worker underemployed? A number of a factors, including the inability to find full-time work in a chosen field.

Search Job Openings

In Partnership With

According to Investopedia, someone with an engineering degree, say, working to deliver pizzas as a primary source of income is a prime example of underemployment.

High underemployment is as much a hindrance to the overall economy as it is for workers. In theory, such workers would provide more benefit to the economy -- and to themselves -- if they could find full-time work in their desired vocation.

In turn, less skilled workers would find that they have more jobs available to them. How big is the nation's underemployment problem? A recent survey by Gallup shows that the percentage of underemployed Americans was stuck at 18.5 percent at mid-September.

The rate mirrors that of August, and nearly matches the 18.6 percent recorded a year ago. (Gallup's measure of underemployment also includes those who are unemployed, which it calculated at 8.8 percent in mid-September.)

The problem of underemployment deserves more scrutiny by policymakers, writes Gallup Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe. Nearly one in five Americans remains underemployed this year, as was the case a year ago, and the figures are worse for certain groups, including younger workers without a college education (23.1 percent) and blacks (27.8 percent).

"More Americans are now being forced to take part-time jobs when they really want full-time work," Jacobe says. "Focusing merely on unemployment instead of underemployment tends to ignore the hardship facing the millions of Americans forced to work part time."

The problem isn't receiving enough attention despite its potential impact on U.S. society, he says. It may have more importance than any other topic currently being debated nationally.

Gallup also notes in its mid-month survey that the nation's unemployment rate ticked down 0.3 percentage points, to 8.8 percent, during the first half of September, from August's 9.1 percent rate.

Though that drop appears promising, the polling organization cautions that some of the decrease is likely associated with seasonal hiring, as businesses prepare for the holiday selling season, and may not indicate an improving job market.

Further, Gallup says, it expects September's overall rate to remain unchanged or even rise slightly to 9.2 percent, when the Labor Department next reports jobless data on Oct. 7.


Next: Where You Live Matters In Your Job Search


Don't Miss: Top 10 Companies Hiring Now


Stories from CNNMoney


David Schepp

Staff Writer

David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.

Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Follow David on Twitter.
Email David at david.schepp@huffingtonpost.com. Add David to your Google+ circles.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

1 Comment

Filter by:
Crow

So no push to fix our trade policy will only continue to hinder recovery?
Why not just say that free trade is now hurting the US economy?

Just saying a cigar is a cigar. Can't run from reality forever...

September 19 2011 at 5:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Search Jobs

In Partnership With
Keywords:
Location:

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

July 27 - Aug 3

Looking for work? See what companies added new openings this week.

×

Check out our new Map Search

Locate your next job using the new AOL Jobs Map Search!

Pin down your next great opportunity today.