It’s heartening to see Friday’s news that the unemployment rate edged down to 7.8% last month. But let’s not get too caught up in celebrations. We need to look beyond the sheer quantity of jobs being created and into the quality of those jobs – something neither presidential candidate seems very interested in talking about.

Buried in the Friday’s jobs report is evidence that a disturbing trend continues: the creation of more part-time jobs, many of them low-wage, taking the place of solid middle-class careers. Positions in sectors like manufacturing continued to decline last month, replaced by new jobs in the healthcare, warehousing and retail industries. A lot of these jobs don’t allow workers to rack up enough hours to earn healthcare benefits – let alone break out of poverty.

The key data in the new report can be found in a table called “A-8”. It shows that more workers are in stuck in part-time jobs because their hours were cut back or they’re unable to find full-time positions. The number of workers in this category shot up to 8.5 million in September – an increase of 581,000 from last month. This month’s figure is nearly double what it was in September 2007, the eve of the recession.

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