Second jobs? Or working poor?

Dateline: Mon 07 Sep 2009

Star biz reporter Dana Hunsinger has a Labor Day puff piece on Hoosiers taking second jobs. Here is the link to the story, which ran on Page 1 this morning:

Hunsinger's examples are what you would expect: a law firm assistant who is a single mom and does custodial work on the weekend to pay her bills for herself and two kids; a retiree who saw his savings dwindle and so works three part-time jobs; and a Wishard Hosptial employee who picked up extra work at Gold's Gym just to have a little extra.

The story's premise is that "On this Labor Day, (Amber) St. Clair (who has added custodial work on weekends) is among a growing number of Americans who are taking on second and even third jobs to survive the recession. Faced with spouses' layoffs, shrinking retirement accounts and pay cuts at job No. 1, many workers say one paycheck just doesn't cut it anymore."

Hunsinger explains that "In the past, multiple jobholders did so (took a second job) for a variety of reasons, whether it was to stay busy or try their hands at a new career."

"Today, however," she writes, "the reason is almost always economic. The number of Americans who said they had two jobs because of tight financial times jumped 35 percent, to 6.1 million, in 2008 from 4.5 million in 2007."

The words that are not used speak louder than what Hunsinger reports.

Is it possible that some of those who are taking these second and even third jobs are the working poor -- people below or near the poverty level who in fact have been "with us" for a long time now? Are they unskilled workers without college degrees, who have to work twice or three times as hard in order to "make ends meet"?

Or do othey represent a new growing underclass of workers for whom we don't quite have a name yet, or a bead on? Will there boat really rise in a new economic tide?

Some examples from my experience: a man who works in a grocery store by day, then delivers newspapers in the wee hours; a woman in retail who supplements her job with housekeeping; a man clerking at a liquor store when he is now doing yard work.

Hunsinger reports that the number of Americans who will take on a second job in 2009 is nearly double what it was last year, according to a survey bt (Gannett's most lucrative project; nice plug).

But what is left out is any meaningful attempt to look at poverty levels and identify workers as potentially part of the growing underclass -- granted, a loaded euphemism, but nonetheless, a very real group of Americans who are a fact of life and have been around for years.

According to Wiki, "both sides of the political spectrum acknowledge that there are non-negligible numbers of working people living near or below the poverty line" but that there is disagreement as to whether the issue is tied to economic policy and what the soloution should be.

Hunsinger's story could have gone wider and deeper, looking at the actual incomes of the folks she interviewed, plugging those into national stats to determine how close they are to poverty levels and acknowledging that the taking on of second and third jobs is hardly a new phenomenon in America, related to this latest downturn, but in fact is a way of life for many.







Tell The Truth [Member] said:

A truly sad epitaph to the last eight years. huh?

Mission Accomplished, indeed.

2009-09-07 19:42:50

boomer [unverified] said:

Please. Rather shallow of you, I think. This economy is the result of all lawmakers, all D.C. politicians, including past Presidents. Not just Bush. Get a grip, TTT, and resist saying things that make you sound petty. Obama says the worst of the recession is over, when the worst may be yet to come.

2009-09-08 13:51:44

news junkie [Member] said:

I don't know anyone who worked more than one job because they felt like they had time on their hands or they were trying out a new career. People usually work a second job or a third because they need the money.

2009-09-09 17:24:47

ruthholl [Member] said:

Years ago, before Bush et al, somebody published a book/essay on the working poor that was heavy on photos: women stuffing bags with newspapers for delivery, working at all-night convenience stores, that sort of thing. I realized then that I was aware of these folks, but had never thought of them as being in a class by themselves -- maybe food stamp recipients, maybe not, but people who were willing and able to work, but just could not find a single decent job that paid well enough.
I agree with news junkie. There is nothing fun or frivolous about working two or three jobs. I still am not sure Dana's story captured how difficult that struggle can be...or the fact that this is not something that came out of this particular recession/depression. It is in fact a way of life.

2009-09-10 07:05:22

Write Man [Member] said:

If you're looking for a great read (albeit about a thoroughly shameful and depressing topic like the working poor), pickup "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich.

The author assumes the lives of those who try to make ends meet on minimum wage, and reports on the many unseen difficulties these people face. It only takes a small stone to make a very large wave in their lives.

I used to work at a manufacturer here in Indy, and at the end of the shift people had to work on their cars to get them to run so they could drive home.

2009-09-10 10:37:32

Comments are closed.


or Register


Syndicate Blog