Underemployment in America

July 11, 1975

Report Outline
Relationship to Unemployment
Role of Education and Government
Proposals to Relieve Underemployment
Special Focus

Relationship to Unemployment

Inability of Job Seekers to Find Suitable Work

Unemployment has captured the national spotlight in recent months but, with a new crop of graduates in the labor force, a related problem is now receiving attention. This is the problem of underemployment—working at a job that does not make good use of one's ability, training or experience. Unlike unemployment, whose figures are compiled nationally each month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (Bls), there is no official or objective measurement of underemployment. But its prevalence is well known. A study of working conditions conducted for the Department of Labor in 1974 found that 35 per cent of all American workers believed they were overqualified for their jobs. Myron Clark, former president of the Society for the Advancement of Management, puts the figure at about 80 per cent.

As the demand for jobs, particularly professional jobs, continues to exceed the supply, the number of highly qualified persons working part-time at low wages continues to increase. According to BLS figures, the number of “subemployed” workers who wanted full-time jobs rose from 2.5 million in late 1973 to about 4 million in the spring of 1975. Employees at several companies are accepting pay cuts and reductions in the number of working hours to prevent large-scale layoffs.

Instead of moving on to better jobs, as they might have expected to do a few years ago, many workers are being forced to remain where they are. U.S. News & World Report has noted that “alongside millions of jobless workers, a new category of recession victims is appearing—men and women locked into jobs they would rather forsake for something better. Their career goals temporarily flattened under the weight of spreading unemployment, these ‘immobilized workers’ are holding onto whatever jobs they have until the unemployment climate brightens.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mar. 06, 2020  Universal Basic Income
Mar. 18, 2016  The Gig Economy
Mar. 06, 2012  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 31, 2009  Straining the Safety Net
Apr. 10, 2009  Business Bankruptcy
Mar. 13, 2009  Vanishing Jobs
Apr. 25, 2003  Unemployment Benefits
Jan. 21, 1994  Worker Retraining
Sep. 09, 1988  Help Wanted: Why Jobs Are Hard to Fill
Mar. 18, 1983  The Youth Unemployment Puzzle
Dec. 24, 1982  Federal Jobs Programs
May 28, 1982  America's Employment Outlook
Jun. 27, 1980  Unemployment Compensation
Oct. 14, 1977  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 11, 1975  Underemployment in America
Dec. 16, 1970  Unemployment in Recessions
Mar. 05, 1965  Unemployment Benefits in Times of Prosperity
Apr. 03, 1964  Overtime Pay Rates and Unemployment
Feb. 01, 1961  Unemployment and New Jobs
Jan. 07, 1959  Lag in Employment
Apr. 16, 1958  Emergency Jobless Aid
May 16, 1956  Lay-Off Pay Plans
Nov. 12, 1953  Jobless Compensation in Boom and Recession
Feb. 25, 1949  Defenses Against Unemployment
Jul. 30, 1945  Full Employment
Nov. 25, 1940  Unemployment Compensation
Jul. 10, 1939  Problem of the Migrant Unemployed
May 19, 1936  Unemployment and Recovery
Sep. 02, 1931  Public Employment Exchanges
Aug. 19, 1929  The Stabilization of Employment
Feb. 21, 1928  The Employment Situation in the United States
Jan. 23, 1926  Unemployment Insurance in the United States
General Employment and Labor
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Vocational and Adult Education