Tracking the underemployed amid a financial crisis

Monday, December 01, 2008

They’re called many things in today’s job market: the part-time worker, the contingent worker, temporaries, distressed, discouraged, fill-ins, per diems, freelancers, permalancers and contractors. These workers make up a gray area in the labor market and many of them would like full time work, and the benefits that go with it, but can’t find those jobs. As the first installment of a new series at The Takeaway, hosts John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji take a look at the underemployed and how they fit into a labor market squeezed by a deepening recession.


Paul Osterman


Jen Poyant

Comments [8]

Sally Quick

I listened this morning to the speaker you had on in regards to unemployment and underemployment, and the usual thing happened.

He said that when someone loses their job, someone else in the family may join the workforce to help out. Once again, SINGLE people were not mentioned. What do WE do when we lose our jobs? We have no one else to help out. If I lost my job now (and I have in the past), I'd literally be out on the street. There is no one else to pick up the slack. And, lots of people are single, some with children.

Why are single people never mentioned in these kind of talks? It's always about families, and "someone else" filling in temporarily. It doesn't make any sense in this world we live in, with divorce the way it is, and people who choose not to marry at all.

I notice this not just on your station, but elsewhere, in magazines, newspapers, TV, and radio. It's very strange to me. Let's get with the times!

Dec. 01 2008 10:43 AM
Robert Westfield

I'm a published novelist but have yet reached the point where I can support myself in New York with only that income. I give tours of the city, to students in the spring and corporate groups in the fall. After the attacks of September 11th, the federal government did extend unemployment benefits to the underemployed including freelancers, like people in the hospitality industry, who could prove loss of livelihood because of the attacks in Lower Manhattan. I wonder why that can't happen now. My clients for the last six months have included Merrill Lynch, AIG, and Lehman Brothers, whose employees are collecting severance or even paychecks thanks to the bailout. My usually busy month of December has been reduced from twenty days of work to four hours this coming Saturday. My clients who cancelled? Ford, Honda, Hyndai, Lexus, Volkswagen, and Lincoln Mercury.

Dec. 01 2008 10:23 AM
Molly Kissel

Mr. Osterman of MIT was incorrect when he stated that employees who work for a temporary help services are not eligible for unemployment benefits. As a service owner, I can assure you that our employees are eligible for unemployment benefits, workers compensation and disability. Additionally we provide the opportunity for them to participate in our group insurance program and safe harbor 401(k).

Dec. 01 2008 10:10 AM
Yigal Yankelevits

GE Treasury Head Office is located at 201 High Ridge Road in Stamford CT. At least 60% of the staff in this location is made up of non US Citizens workers imported to this country under false pretences. The same can be found at Citibank which employs in NY thousands of IT staff smuggled to the US illegally from India. No wonder the unemployment rate in our country is unnecessarily high. Don't believe me? Challenge me to produce evidence or better dig it up yourselves

Dec. 01 2008 09:23 AM

Can we also talk about the fact that the "unemployment" statistic used routinely as shorthand in the media to measure the economy is utterly bogus. It *only* represents the number of people who have applied for or are receiving unemployment insurance, and so gives a completely deceptive image of what the true unemployment situation is in the economy. As your guest just said, while the current "official" stat is 6.5%, if the non- or underemployed are included, it's nearly *twice* as much--12%. That's a sizable difference, yet is the statistic of choice, especially when announcing the "good news" of economic "growth."

Dec. 01 2008 08:59 AM

Laid off from my job of 5 years as an Adjunct Professor, I applied for umemployment and collected a measley $256 for eight weeks, until it was determined that because of how I file my taxes, as an artist, independent contractor, I am not eligible. Now, not only do have no income, if I don't pay the back money I collected, I am guilty of a crime.

Why do the self-employed, who pay all their taxes, not qualify for unemployment insurance?

Dec. 01 2008 08:56 AM

i am an underemployed (unemployed) person. i am a research scientist, with a PhD, a postdoctoral fellowship, and i have been surviving (barely!) by freelance writing, pet care and private tutoring. now that the economy has taken a serious downturn, i have not been able to find ANYTHING to support myself. unfortunately, i am single and without any family at all, in debt, without health or dental care, and incredibly discouraged, in despair about my career options and in fear for my future and my life in general.

Dec. 01 2008 06:59 AM
Bice WIlson

Listening to all the names you recount for the underemployed brings to mind the fact that, since so many essential services are principally available as benefits of employment, this has created an incentive for employers to find ways of using workers without needing to give benefits.

Strange, silly, and ultimately destructive distortions.

Let's hear it for nationalized healthcare and a reliable safety net. Then folk will be free to earn in whatever modes they choose.

Dec. 01 2008 06:48 AM

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