Where Does Temp Work Fit Into Underemployment?

BY Paul Solman  March 29, 2012 at 1:14 PM EST

Underemployed American Dream
Unemployed and underemployed workers and supporters at the American Dream Movement Rally in October 2011. Creative Commons photo by David Sachs/SEIU lnternational.

Paul Solman answers questions from the NewsHour audience on business and economic news here on his Making Sen$e page. Here is Thursday’s query:

Name: Steve

Question: After reading the piece on underemployment, I see part-timers are calculated in underemployment numbers. But what about people doing temporary work? I’m an unemployed/underemployed attorney surviving on document review work that involves projects that start and stop without notice, often with large gaps in between. Does the agency that places me report a job placement for a given time period even though I may not be working for a good chunk of it? Is this captured in conventional underemployment numbers?

Paul Solman: Yes it is, Steve, so long as people like you tell the truth when the survey taker from the Bureau of Labor Statistics comes calling. The BLS interviews 60,000 households a month. The underemployment tally comes from those interviews. You are counted as “part-time for economic reasons” if you say you worked less than full-time, but are looking for full-time work.

This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown- NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.