Thursday, July 18, 2024

Slowing Economy Fuels Increase In Latino Part Time Workers

In this election year, the economic woes of Latinos may take precedence over other issues…

The number of Americans who have seen their full-time jobs chopped to part time because of weak business has swelled to more than 3.7 million – the largest figure since the government began tracking such data more than a half-century ago.

The loss of pay has become a primary source of pain for millions of American families, reinforcing the downturn gripping the economy. Paychecks are shrinking just as home prices plunge and gas prices soar, furthering the austerity across the nation.

“I either stop eating, or stop using anything I can,” said Marvin Zinn, a clerk at a Walgreens drugstore in St. Joseph, Mich., who has seen his take-home pay drop to about $550 every two weeks from about $650, as his weekly hours have dropped to 37.5 from 44 in recent months.

Zinn has run up nearly $2,000 in credit card debt to buy food. He has put off dental work. Zinn no longer attends church, he said, “because I can’t afford to drive.”

To judge from the surface, the job market is weak but hardly desperate. Layoffs remain less frequent than in many economic downturns, and the unemployment rate is a relatively modest 5.5 percent. But that figure masks the strains of those who are losing hours or working part time because they cannot find full-time work – a stealth force that is eroding American spending power.

All told, people the government classifies as working part time involuntarily – predominantly those who have lost hours or cannot find full-time work – swelled to 5.3 million last month, a jump of greater than 1 million over the past year.

These workers now amount to 3.7 percent of all those employed, up from 3 percent a year ago, and the highest level since 1995.

“This increase is startling,” said Steve Hipple, an economist at the Labor Department.

The loss of hours has been affecting men in particular – and Latino men more so. Among those who were forced into part-time work between spring 2007 and spring 2008, 73 percent were men and 35 percent were Hispanic.

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