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Why Record Number of American Workers Are Choosing Part-Time Remote Roles After the Pandemic

Stay-at-home mothers, teenagers, retirees, and those feeling overworked prefer part-time employment.
Many Americans are seeking part-time remote jobs (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Many Americans are seeking part-time remote jobs (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

More Americans, including various demographics like stay-at-home mothers, teenagers, retirees, and those feeling overworked, are choosing part-time employment. In December 2023, a record 22 million Americans worked part-time, constituting 13.9% of the workforce, the highest since February 2020. This includes workers in traditional roles as well as gig workers and entrepreneurs.

Image Source : Photo by Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels
Pexels | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Audrey Hoyt, co-founder of co-working spaces, reduced her weekly hours from 45 to 30 in 2019 to prioritize time with her children, a decision solidified by the pandemic. Despite potential business growth, Hoyt values family involvement over full-time work.

Some workers are part-time due to reduced hours by employers or difficulty finding full-time work, a trend expected to continue as the economy slows. However, many employers are accommodating part-time and flexible arrangements, reflecting a potential long-term shift.

Employers have adapted to remote work, addressing concerns about productivity. As remote work becomes more entrenched, it may be difficult to revert to traditional setups even if economic conditions change. In an economic downturn, employers may prioritize retaining full-time workers over part-timers. However, laid-off workers may turn to contract or gig work, contributing to the rise in part-time employment.

Photo by Andrew Neel | Pexels
Pexels | Photo by Andrew Neel

In December, 37% of 16- to 19-year-olds were either working or seeking employment, up from about 36% pre-pandemic. Employment among teens rose to 5.6 million, primarily in part-time roles after school, with 368,000 more employed compared to January 2020.

Labor shortages and post-Covid burnout among adult workers, particularly in sectors like restaurants and retail, created more job opportunities for teens. Additionally, rising wages and a desire to break free from pandemic-related constraints contributed to their increased employment. This trend marks a reversal of the long-term decline in teen employment, attributed to their growing involvement in school activities, volunteer work, or untracked gig jobs.

Image Source : Photo by Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels
Pexels | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Despite the pandemic's onset sparking widespread burnout among workers, the issue hasn't significantly improved. A recent survey by isolved found that 65% of employees experienced burnout in the past year, with 58% planning to explore new job opportunities in the next 12 months.

With the closure of daycare centers during the pandemic and some workers exiting the industry, parents, especially women, turned to part-time remote work while caring for children. This option facilitated the return of many women to the workforce amid a robust labor market with increasing job opportunities and wages.

Photo by Kampus Production | Pexels
Pexels | Photo by Kampus Production

Despite the buoyant labor market, many in their 50s who retired early during the pandemic opted not to return to work. However, there has been a 5.2% increase in the hiring of men aged 65 and over in the past year, with many without college degrees re-entering the workforce for low-wage jobs due to financial strains caused by high inflation. About 70% of working men and women over 65 are in part-time jobs, driven by the large population of baby boomers in this age group. This demographic shift has contributed to the overall increase in the number of Americans working part-time.

While these industries have been steadily adding workers, they still fall short of pre-pandemic staffing levels. The prevalence of part-time workers in these sectors has contributed to the overall increase in part-time employment.

Cover Image Source: Pexels | RDNE Stock project
Pexels | Photo by RDNE Stock project

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) implemented in 2014 led to a steady rise in the share of employed Americans choosing part-time work as it provided easier access to affordable health insurance without requiring full-time employment. Policy changes under different administrations have influenced the fluctuation in part-time work trends, with recent adjustments contributing to an increase in workers opting for part-time roles.