There were about 7.8 million part-time workers who would rather be working full-time as of January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a whopping 65 percent increase over a year earlier and about the same as the previous month.
The sharpest increase in the number of so-called â€œinvoluntaryâ€ part-time workers has come since the financial crisis hit full force in September, leaving many scared corporate executives anxious to save money wherever possible â€” including on payroll.
â€œCompanies were very quick to pull the trigger on cutting everything,â€ said Ken Mayland, an economist with ClearView Economics.
A steep rise in the number of involuntary part-time workers is typical in any recession, because companies tend to cut workersâ€™ hours before laying them off completely. This time around, economists say that, so far at least, the grim numbers arenâ€™t really surprising given the state of the economy.
In fact, Di Natale said, the percentage of part-time workers who would like to be working full-time, currently at about 29 percent, is actually lower than during the height of the recession in the early 1980s.
Of course I read this in a wider context with the job cuts announced by General Motors and Chrysler
The GM job cuts include 10,000 salaried and 37,000 blue-collar positions, amounting to 19 percent of its current global work force of 244,500. A total 26,000 of the cuts will come from outside the U.S. The cuts would take place by the end of this year.
The new plan has the U.S. work force declining from about 92,000 hourly and salaried employees at year-end 2008 to 72,000 by 2012 â€” about a 20 percent cut.
GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said the plan submitted Tuesday is more aggressive than the one presented to the government on Dec. 2 because the global economy and auto sales have deteriorated in the time that has passed since then.
"Today’s plan is significantly more aggressive because it has to be," Wagoner told reporters. "We have taken stronger actions, we needed to."
Chrysler had 54,007 employees at the end of 2008, so Tuesday’s cuts would equal about 6 percent.
Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler said the economy and the market for new cars has deteriorated significantly since its initial request. Chrysler said it now projects that automakers will sell 10.1 million vehicles in the U.S. this year, the lowest level in four decades.
Chrysler will eliminate the Dodge Aspen, Durango and Chrysler PT Cruiser, according to company president Jim Press. GM said it plans to sell or spin-off its Saturn brand. If those attempts are unsuccessful, GM will phase out the brand.
GM is also evaluating options for a sale of its Hummer division and sought buyers for its Saab unit. Selling or eliminating those brands would leave GM to focus on Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick, with Pontiac reduced to one or two models.
First of all, I havenâ€™t even heard of a Dodge Aspen until right now (although apparently is called a Chrysler Aspen and is just a Dodge Durango with a new logo on it).
Secondly while it really is horrible to have your hours cut back, not cutting back quickly enough has been a big mistake of a lot of businesses and the automakers are a prime example. Since I was a kid I have been hearing that General Motors had too many brands and while I am glad they are keeping Pontiac, why couldnâ€™t they have made these kinds of cuts before now.
Whenever I read about job cuts in the auto industry I think back to the book, The Fifth Discipline and think of an anecdote told by Peter Senge about how hard it is to retrain autoworkers where so much of their identity is tied up in their profession, trade, and company. I wonder how many of those jobs that are lost are going to be able to transition into something else or if we are going to see a whole bunch of Flint, Michigan type of cities across the Midwest.