juggler.jpgThe jobless figures from the Department of Labor this morning offered some hope. The overall unemployment rate dipped to 8.5 percent, the lowest level since 2009.

What wasn’t hopeful was growth in the number of people holding multiple jobs.

It’s one of the stark realities of today’s job market. Good-paying jobs are being lost, and many aren’t being replaced. As a result, some workers are finding they need more than one job to make ends meet — or at least keep up their standard of living, said Ellen Ernst Kossek, a human resource professor at Michigan State University’s School of Labor & Industrial Relations.

More than 7 million Americans are working two or more jobs today, up from 6.8 million in 2010, and 6 million in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Working multiple jobs is sometimes a hedge against a bad economy for workers who don’t want to be left with nothing if they ever get laid off. It can also be a lifestyle decision, said Cali Yost, CEO of consulting firm Work+Life Fit Inc.

There’s a group of people out there who have lost good-paying corporate jobs, she said, but haven’t adjusted their lifestyles downward. “So they are taking additional jobs to shore up a loss of salary.”

It’s not always low-wage, low-skill workers that opt for multiple jobs, added Andrew Sum, professor of economics and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

“The better educated you are, the more likely you are to hold a second job,” he said. Sometimes an extra job is a voluntary decision for people who just want to earn more money and can easily find more work, including things like consulting.

But clearly, Sum stressed, those on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder take on more than one job out of necessity. “When times are bad, more people like to work a second job but just can’t find one,” he said. Sum believes the number of multiple job holders would be even higher if there were more jobs available right now.

While creating more jobs is the most pressing economic matter, creating good-paying jobs should also be a priority.

“The growth of low-wage jobs threatens the economic security of millions of families and is changing the face of the American economy,” maintained Donna Addkison, President and CEO of Wider Opportunities for Women “We should be moving in a direction where hard work brings economic security, but right now our children are growing up in households where financial struggles are the norm.”

Her organization released data in November that showed that “45 percent of Americans are unable to cover their basic expenses, even if household breadwinners are working.”

It’s a sad commentary if even those who have jobs, multiple jobs, can’t make ends meet.

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