NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Employment Trends

January 11, 2001

Since the mid-1950s, the proportion of the U.S. labor force engaged in part-time work has soared. But the proportion pursuing self-employed careers, either full or part time, has plummeted -- although that trend began to level off by the mid-1970s.

For the most part, Americans remain corporate creatures -- content to work for someone else.

  • In 1995, 74.6 percent of the work force consisted of full-time employees -- nearly identical to the estimated 74.8 percent in 2000.
  • Self-employed persons represented 15.2 percent of the work force in 1955 -- falling to roughly 8 percent to 9 percent between about 1970 and 1998.
  • Today the self-employed, both full- and part-time, constitute around 7.5 percent of workers.
  • Most dramatic is the increase in workers who put in fewer than 35 hours a week -- from 10.2 percent in 1955 to 17.7 percent today.

Total labor-force participation has increased from 59.3 percent of the population in 1955 to 67 percent last year.

Experts say that the rise in part-timers is not particularly the result of employers trying to escape government-mandated benefits for those working less than 35 hours weekly. Surveys show part-timers prefer their status and a fair number of them have spouses with benefits.

Source: Peter Brimelow, "Charticle,"Part-Time U.S.A.," Forbes, January 22, 2001.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues