Many Americans who struggled to find a job several years ago are now juggling two or three.
The number of multiple job holders hit an eight-year high in September as several forces reshape the labor market, according to a report from USA TODAY. Many workers are seeking extra income as wages are inching up. Job openings are near record levels. And the burgeoning gig economy is putting a premium on freelance work and short-term projects.
Michael Alfaro, 49, of Coloma, Mich., toils full-time as an executive customer service representative for an appliance manufacturer. And on most evenings and some weekends, he works the late shift -- 6 PM to 10 PM or 4 PM to midnight -- in the electronics department of a local department store.
Alfaro decided to take the gig last November to whittle down about $37,000 in debt, including credit card, and student and personal loans. But he also was spurred by the struggles of area retailers and other businesses to find employees.
“It encouraged me,” he says.
The ranks of multiple job holders jumped by 300,000 last month to 7.8 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The moonlighters represent 5.2% of all those employed, up from 4.9% in September 2015.
Monthly data can be volatile, but the totals through the first nine months of 2016 have averaged 7.5 million, nearly 300,000 higher than the year-ago figure.
“It’s symptomatic of a tight labor market and the fact that you have so many job openings,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It means people who want to work are able to find jobs.”
Job openings neared an all-time high of 5.8 million in July before dropping to a still-healthy 5.4 million in August. Meanwhile, the near-normal 5% unemployment rate signifies the pool of available workers is limited. That’s a big reason total average monthly payroll growth has slowed to 178,000 this year from 229,000 in 2015.