Multiple Job Holders in the US hits a record in Feb-18

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Since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been keeping score, Americans with more than one job soared in Feb 2018 to the highest level seen in that month for a quarter century. March 2017 was also a record for that month in 24 years. One would expect when the economy is in the groove that people do not need to hold down multiple jobs to get by. On a percentage of the total labour force basis, multiple job holders in Feb 2018 have exceeded the level set in 2007 ahead of the GFC, or 5%.

However since the shake out of GFC, people holding down multiple jobs has continued to rise every year for the last 9. The previous record was only 5 years. Trends in disability payments and food stamps shows eerily similar trends since 2002.

SNAP (food stamp) recipients numbered as follows (working disability recipients in brackets, with cost outlays per annum)

1994: 27.47 million ( 6.381mn, cost $2.621bn)

1997: 22.58 million (6.998mn, cost $3.253bn)

2002: 19.10 million (8.109mn, cost $4.621bn)

2007: 26.32 million (9.858mn, cost $7.127bn)

2013: 47.67 million (12.156mn, cost $10.25bn)

2017: 42.20 million (Dec 2016 fig, 11.832mn, cost $10.316bn)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) highlights that back pain and musculoskeletal problems are 32.3% of disability claims, followed by mental illness at 26.3% (up from 19.2% in 2011) in 2016. This compares to 8.3% and 9.6% respectively in 1961. Half of claims in the 1960s came from heart attack/stroke and ‘other’ categories which made up only 17% of the 2016 figure.

Disabled beneficiaries aged 18–64 in current-payment status accounted for 4.7% of the population aged 18–64 in the United States. The states with the highest rates of disabled beneficiaries – 7%+ -were Alabama (SNAP benefits 17% of population), Arkansas (13%), Kentucky (15%), Maine (14%), Mississippi (18%), and West Virginia (19%). All above the national SNAP average of 13% and only Maine that voted Democrat in the 2016 election. Coincidence?

Could it be that more Americans are sick of living off more and more handouts? Seems plausible that Trump’s delivery to the White House was driven by these immutable trends – they want change to a system which they know can’t sustainably deliver forever like this. That is why tax breaks resonate. Why tariffs strike a chord. None-the-less maybe the uptick in multiple jobs is highlighting that things aren’t moving quickly enough.

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