Employment and Wages of Part-time Workers in Pennsylvania and the United States, 1979-1996

Howard Wial
Publication Date: 
April 1, 1998

For many decades Americans have considered a long-term, full-time job with a single employer the “standard” employment arrangement. But “nonstandard” work arrangements (e.g., part-time, temporary, and fixed-term contract employment) have been growing. Expanding non-standard employment is one reason many Americans are anxious about their economic prospects. Nonstandard work typically pays lower wages and offers fewer employee benefits than standard work. While many standard work arrangements offer employment security and predictable opportunities for economic advancement (although less so today than in the past), nonstandard arrangements often do not.

Part-time work (defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as work for less than 35 hours per week) is by far the most widespread kind of nonstandard work, and the kind for which the best measures exist of growth over time. Parttime work is not always a problem; many workers prefer a part-time schedule which gives them time for education, leisure, or family responsibilities. Nevertheless, large numbers of part-timers would prefer to work full time.