The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 6, 2012

BILL FINDLEY | Workers turning to moonlighting

Bill Findley
For The Tribune-Democrat

— A little known group of workers defined as dual jobholders – often referred to as moonlighters or multiple jobholders – appears to be representing an increasing segment of the local labor force, a trend perhaps reflective of the challenging economic times.  

While there are no specific numbers on their presence in our local labor market, national statistics indicate that in any given month, approximately

6 percent of all workers are multiple jobholders. While this would translate  into approximately 5,000 workers locally, the figure is thought to  be significantly higher as the incidence of secondary jobholding appears to be more widespread throughout our region.

An analysis of the trend looks at the motive for working at more than one job as well as some of the characteristics associated with multiple jobholders.

Why do people work at more than one job? In addition to increasing income, the reasons for multiple job holding include a variety of motivations. Given the recent state of the economy, economic necessity and meeting basic living expenses may be high on the list. Other reasons for working multiple jobs may include paying off debt, earning extra money, gaining experience and saving for the future.

Such is the case with Carol, a salesperson at an area retail store, who did not wish to have her full name used.

“Times are tough. I need the extra money,” she said. “Actually, I enjoy working a few nights a week, and the extra money comes in handy.”

Earl, who is employed by a local manufacturing company and also did not want his last name used, is another example of moonlighting. An electrician by trade, he works at a second job doing electrical work for a broad range of customers. He explains that it didn’t start out that way. He simply began by helping out a few friends.

“Now, I work a couple nights a week just to keep up with my customers,” he said. “I set the money aside to help my son with school expenses.”

According to surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people working multiple jobs come from just about every demographic group and span all ages, races, genders, martial statuses, geographic locations and educational levels. However, there are some gender and age trends.

For example, employed women are more likely to be multiple jobholders than their male counterparts. Retired people aged 65 and older are the least likely to hold multiple jobs. The majority of moonlighters are married, most in their late 30s or early 40s and have strong labor force attachment.

Interestingly, the tendency to work multiple jobs increases with education. Education has improved the marketability of many of these more highly educated people who possess skill sets in demand in the labor market. The result? Employers seek their expertise even though they already are employed.

While, to some extent, earnings dictate the number who hold more than one job, studies indicate that this is not always the case. The decision is more likely driven by the primary motivation to have more than job.

For example, well-paid people may choose to work second jobs because their schedule allows it, or their expertise may be in demand, or simply because of financial reasons beyond meeting basic living expenses and paying off debts.

Not surprisingly, retail sales workers are at the top of the list of occupations that employ the greatest number of people in secondary jobs because many people supplement their earnings working part time at local stores. Other popular occupations include sales representatives, waiters and waitresses, security guards, bartenders and construction trades. Many people in professional occupations with specialized expertise supplement their earnings by teaching part time at local colleges and universities.

Finally, the duration of multiple jobholding – that is the length of time that persons had been working two or more jobs at the same time – is between one to five years.

Despite the absence of specific statistical information locally, numerous interviews with local dual jobholders indicate that their numbers have been on the rise due primarily to the challenging economic times.

For 40 years, Bill Findley was employed by the state Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis as a workforce information specialist, monitoring and reporting on labor market developments in this area and across the region. He is a graduate of Pitt with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

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