The Forgotten Underemployed Workers

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Underemployed Workers

Source: Associated Press

With President Obama’s re-election last week, a number of companies have already begun cutting back their employees hours or laying off altogether. They are concerned about the new health care laws, known as Obamacare. But there’s more. There were already a large number of underemployed Americans who aren’t making ends meet, but who aren’t being counted in the unemployed numbers. Clearly, the dynamics are well hidden and the problems are about to burst onto the scene like Aunt Alma’s Christmas time efforts of having that third piece of your mama’s pecan pie without busting her size 16 butt out of that size 12 skirt. In other words – get ready because it’s coming.

Here’s how the cards are being played –

We have a growing number of part time employees who are earning minimum wage, not eligible for health care and who under no circumstances will be able to afford health care let alone the tax (or, if you prefer, the “penalty”) of not having health care. Many are doing the best they can just to get back and forth to work each day, let alone putting money back for a rainy day. That number is growing, as we mentioned, in part because employers are panicking and are trying to get ahead of the new healthcare laws. Worse, some of these employees feel trapped because they’re also expected to be on call in case another one of their part time co-workers called in sick. That means they either free themselves from that burden by quitting their jobs so they can search for full time employment or they stick with their part time jobs, remain by the phone during their on call times and do the best they can with what they have in terms of looking for better positions.

Employers are happy to pay their on-call employees. If you consider $2 an hour “pay”.

There are 8.6 million Americans who are underemployed in this country right this second. Their hands are tied and the vicious cycle continues:

Mary works 22 hours a week earning minimum wage. She’s on-call another 15 hours a week in case a co-worker can’t make her shift.
She wants to quit her job, but everyone is encouraging her to be grateful for what she has. She feels guilty because so many don’t have jobs, so she sticks with it, all the while wondering how she’s going to make her car note every month.
Soon, she can’t make her car note and they repossess it.
Her credit’s shot, her options are even more limited now with a low credit score.
She now can’t look for a full time job because she has no transportation to look and even if she got a full time job, how would she get there?
She gets sick and can’t afford to go to the doctor, so she tries to treat the head cold at home and misses two days work. The head cold turns into bronchitis, which requires an antibiotic that she can’t afford. Even if she could, she’s missed work, the doctor wants his payment up front and she has no way to get there anyway. She misses another week of work.

See the cycle? And make no mistake – this isn’t happening in a handful of cities – it’s happening around the country in every city.

The problem is – no one knows when it’s going to end, no one knows how to put the brakes on this out of control train that’s barreling forward.

Our example above, Mary, is a real person. When we spoke with her last week, she said,

My bank called last week and told me if I didn’t bring my checking account out of the negative and if I didn’t make my credit card payment, I’d see my interest rate rise and I could lose my checking account. If I don’t go back to work soon, that checking account won’t mean much because there won’t be a paycheck to deposit. If they raise the APR on my credit card, it will be bad, but I’m more worried about how I’m going to pay the rent. I’m 28 years old and I might end up having to move back in with my mom.

She’s not alone. The BLS reports more than one million full time jobs have been eliminated in the retail sector alone. They’ve been replaced with just 500,000 part time positions. Worse, the new unemployment numbers came out last week and the unemployment rate in October rose to 7.9% after dropping to 7.8% in September. Clearly, this nation is not out of the woods and the fear is that November’s numbers will be even worse as many companies begin laying off workers ahead of Obamacare.

So what are your thoughts? Do you know anyone who’s lost a job as a result of the election? Maybe you’re facing the new reality of part time work? Share your story with us.

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About Author

Casey is a seasoned writer in personal finance. He has written a number of articles that have been published in magazines and blogs around the country. His advice has helped millions make better choices about how they save their money.


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