Working multiple jobs in a lousy economy

Working a couple part-time jobs is a rite of passage for many young adults. I juggled a few right after college until one — a tiny newspaper — offered me a full-time gig.

That’s a lot different, though, than moonlighting in your 30s, 40s or 50s in a lousy economy.

We’ve heard from a couple dozen people the past few months in our Public Insight Network who’ve told us they’re working multiple jobs in this economy. For some, it’s needed extra cash. For others, the second job money is paying down debt.

Missi Lang of Eagan is in her early 30s and was working two jobs before recently taking time off to have a baby. She told us in February:

One job is as a server at a restaurant – there I am pretty secure in my employment, but the money I make each shift seems to have decreased. My other job is working in Adult Basic Education. That job also seems fairly secure, just due to the fact that when so many people are getting laid off, it would be counter intuitive for the state to cut programs that could potentially help those in need.

I guess I’m just hoping everything will be normal when I go back to work. We are really unable to save much because it seems like we’re always behind, so we will just keep doing the same things. I guess when I grocery shop, I have been going for just the essential items, skipping the pre-made meals and a few other extras.

Two weeks ago, Paula Swenson of Bemidji wrote in and called her job security “shaky.”

She’s working three jobs in her late 50s — “Artist, good prospects but low income, sub teacher, erratic, Census employee, temporary.” She’s trying to pay off her credit cards. Asked about the last time she had a raise, she replied, “What’s that?”

Moonlighting has always been a bit of a phenomenon here. Minnesota and the Northern Plains states have among the highest multiple job holding rates in the country, with Minnesota the top moonlighting state in 1994, according to the state’s labor department. Officials say about 8 percent of employed Minnesotans held more than one job in 2004 and about 5.4 percent in the U.S.

I couldn’t find any data more recent than 2004. If anyone has any please post below. But the Minnesota report noted moonlighting picks up during economic downturns, so it’s a pretty good bet Minnesota’s numbers are up.(Correction: I misread the report on moonlighting and recession. The report shows moonlighting declining in a recession. Thanks to Dave Senf, author of the study, for setting that right.)

Below, we’ve mapped some other recent voices on jobs from our Public Insight Network. Take a look, then add your story.

Most surprising multiple job holder? Paul Kolisch of Burnsville is in his 60s working multiple jobs but called is job outlook “very secure.” Why?

He trains pilots for Mesaba Airlines, job he says that is a beneficiary of Delta Airlines’ takeover of Northwest Airlines and “must continue unless the airline shuts down.”

Plus, his other job seems like it has a lot of staying power: He’s a priest in the Anglican Church and, he notes, “I see more people joining our congregation.”

  • Dave Senf

    Please reread the

    Moonlighting in Minnesota article

    The data shows the opposite – multiple job holding was higher back in the tight labor market years of 1999 than during the recession years of 2001 – 2002.

    “Multiple jobholding tends to be cyclical, increasing during expansions when job opportunities are good and declining as the job market weakens during recessions. Workers who wanted a second job during the labor shortage years of the late 1990s had an easier time of finding a second job than those seeking a second job during the soft job market between 2001 and 2004.”

    It will be interesting to see if the number of multiple jobholders increased in 2008 and 2009.

  • Paul Tosto / MPR

    Dave, thanks. I was wrong. I misread the relationship between moonlighting and the economy in your report. I’ve corrected the post.

    I’m absolutely interested in what the data will show for 2008 and 2009. Thanks.