According to the United States Department of Labor the most recent unemployment rate stands at 7.3% as of August 2013. (I’d like to give you more recent numbers but due to the current government shutdown those numbers aren’t available. Place the blame wherever you want.) What those numbers don’t take into account are the number of people who, for whatever reason, are classified as “underemployed”.

Would you like fries with that?

Workers who are classified as underemployed fall into three basic categories. Let’s take a look at each one and what affects it has on the economy and the individuals themselves.

The first one is called “over qualification” or “over educated”. In this circumstance individuals may find themselves with a high degree of education or technical expertise in a certain field stuck in low paying jobs that do not require their skill sets. Many factors come into play when a person falls into this category. First and foremost is the job demand in a certain field. If the market isn’t there, neither are the jobs. The next contributing factor would be experience. Many employers don’t hire recent college graduates in high level jobs since there is little on their resume to indicate how they would perform in the so-called real world. They often prefer to hire people who have “a few scars on their back” in dealing with real life situations.

The next one is called “involuntary part-time work”. Quite simply, this can be described as an individual who would prefer to work full time but is stuck in a part time job. With the recent economic downturn many companies are shifting employees from full time to part time in order to reduce such things as paying for healthcare, 401(k) plans and pensions in order to cut costs.

The last one is called “overstaffing” or “hidden employment”. This is when businesses do not full make use of an employee’s time and/or skills. A good example of this would be me writing about this topic while I’m at work, which I am.

Underemployment can also have a debilitating psychological effect for those people that find themselves in those circumstances. Besides low morale, certain skills that a person might have acquired could begin to atrophy as the situation goes on longer and longer.

In today’s world, many people are forced to take any job that becomes available just to pay the bills and put food on the table. Unfortunately, this could lead to a downward spiral as gaps in your resume or chosen field don’t often look good for prospective employers.

I’ve seen some research that indicates the underemployment rate in the country hovers at around 15%, When you toss in the 7.3% that are actually unemployed and those who have totally given up on searching for jobs that number compromises over 25% of the work force.

Pretty damn sad if you ask me.


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.