Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Multiple-Job Holders: A Small but Important Bellwether
by Martin Kraal
Published Jan-13-2014

A "multiple-job holder" is a person who earns a wage from more than one employer during a calendar quarter. The two most typical types of multiple-job holders are individuals who legitimately hold two jobs at the same time - perhaps a full-time position during the week and a part-time job on the weekend - and individuals who switch between employers during the same calendar quarter. People who are fortunate enough to leave one employer and begin working for another during the same quarter show up in our administrative data as a multiple-job holder because their social security number is reported by both employers for unemployment insurance tax purposes. This detailed data - Unemployment Insurance records - can be used to research trends for different types of workers over time.

During the first quarter of 2013, roughly 1,639,000 social security numbers were reported by employers covered under Oregon's unemployment insurance laws. In other words, employers reported that roughly 1.6 million individuals were paid a wage at some time during the quarter. The vast majority of those social security numbers (1,489,700 or 90.9%) were reported by only one employer, indicating that those individuals were not holding multiple jobs during the quarter. It is possible that some of the workers reported only once in the wage records were also self-employed during the period, but self-employed individuals don't have to report their wages for unemployment insurance purposes. Therefore, it is impossible to learn anything about the self-employed from this data set.

During the same quarter roughly 132,500 individuals (8.1%) were reported as having two jobs, while 13,800 (0.8%) were reported as having three jobs and 3,000 (0.2%) had four jobs or more during the period. While holding two jobs concurrently or switching between two employers during the quarter was fairly common, about 1 percent of workers in Oregon held three or more jobs during the period.

Graph 1 shows how employment trends for single- and multiple-job holders have compared in Oregon over the last decade. While single-job holders certainly lost jobs during both recessions, multiple-job holders actually lost more ground on a percentage basis. At the depth of the most recent recession, the number of individuals who held two jobs had fallen to just 77 percent of the count from 2001, while the number of individuals with just one job never fell below employment levels from the year 2001.

There are many plausible explanations for why multiple-job holders may be "hit harder" during recessionary periods. It seems likely that many people who hold multiple jobs work part-time for at least one of those employers, which may mean their position becomes a target of layoffs as their employer tries to reduce costs while maintaining its full-time workforce during a downturn. Another explanation is that as the economy goes into a slump, workers stop trying to switch between jobs as often and as a result the number of social security numbers being reported by two employers during a quarter goes down.

A completely different perspective on the situation is that people who hold more than one job have a higher probability of losing a job during a downturn simply because they have more jobs to lose. Here is a simplified example: If I hold two jobs and my neighbor holds one, and then one-in-three jobs throughout the economy is lost during a recession, I have a 67 percent chance of losing one of my jobs while my neighbor has only a 33 percent chance of losing her one job. Thankfully nowhere near one out of three jobs were lost during the last recession - but you get the point.

Graph 1
Individuals in Oregon holding one or multiple jobs
What Does a Multiple-job Holder Look Like?
We don't have Oregon-specific data that tells us much about the personal characteristics of people who hold more than one job. Fortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects and publishes information about multiple-job holders across the country each year. People who are switching between jobs during a quarter are excluded from the national data about multiple-job holders, so this data set focuses on individuals who are holding at least two jobs at the same time.

In 2012, there were roughly 6.9 million people across the country who were holding two or more jobs at the same time. The vast majority of those individuals were between the ages of 25 and 54, but 5.4 percent of all 20 to 24 year olds held multiple jobs - slightly higher than for the 25 to 54 year age group. Those individuals 16 to 19 years old and 65 years and older were less likely to hold multiple jobs.

Though a similar number of men and women held two or more jobs, roughly 5.2 percent of all employed women juggled multiple jobs while only 4.6 percent of employed men did. The overwhelming majority of multiple-job holders were white, and roughly 5.0 percent of all white workers held multiple jobs compared to 4.5 percent of workers of Black or African American descent, 3.2 percent of workers of Asian descent, and 3.1 percent of workers of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.

The majority of all multiple-job holders were married in 2012, but 5.3 percent of workers who were widowed, divorced, or separated worked two or more jobs compared with 4.7 percent of married workers and 5.0 percent of workers who had never been married. This was especially true for women: 6.0 percent of female workers who were widowed, divorced, or separated and 5.9 percent of female workers who were never married juggled multiple jobs at the same time compared with just 4.6 percent of female workers who were married.

Slightly more than one-half of all people who held two or more jobs at the same time during 2012 reported having a primary job full time and a secondary job part time. Very few individuals reported having two full-time jobs concurrently. However, women with multiple jobs were more likely to be working two part-time jobs and the number of women who did work two or more part-time jobs was roughly double the number of men who did the same.