Sep 06, 2012 6:12 PM GMT
The Labor Department includes anyone who works an hour a week in its calculation of employed Americans, but a new measurement by Gallup strips out part-timers -- that number is much more unsettling.
If it were up to the labor department, it would count all these folks technically employed. Gallup takes issue with that, however. In its new measure of the share of the population with jobs, Gallup takes into account the quality of jobs people have and assumes full-time work (which it considers at least 30 hours per week) is generally superior over part-time work.
It's easy to see why. Part-timers are less likely to enjoy the kind of security and benefits that full-timers typically receive. And just because Americans have a job – any odd job – it doesn't necessarily mean they're any happier or that the economy is doing any better. So unlike the Labor Department, Gallup figures it only makes sense to count full-timers and leave out part-timers in coming up with its employment rate. By contrast, the Labor Department counts both – just so long as they work at least an hour a week.
By Gallup's measure, 41% of Americans were employed in 2011; in 2010, it was 44% and so far this year it has hovered around 43%. That's markedly lower than the government's estimated employment-to-population ratio of 58%, which reflects both full-timers and part-timers. It has hovered at about the same rate since at least last July.
This certainly sounds bad, but Americans are more likely to have full-time jobs than most people in the world. Globally, the U.S. ranks no. 16 in its share of people with jobs relative to the rest of the population at least 15 years old, according to Gallup. Our employment rate fares better than troubled countries in Europe: United Kingdom (36%), Spain (33%), Germany (32%), Ireland (30%), France (26%), Italy (25%), Greece (23%). And while China is often in the spotlight for its rapidly growing economy (albeit, slowing), its employment rate ranks far lower at No. 55 with 28%.