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Jobs Hit Record Level - And It’s Not Just “Hamburger Flippers″

August 11, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A record 125.8 million Americans, or roughly 69 percent of the nation’s working-age population, held jobs during all or part of 1986 - an increase of 2.3 million above 1985, the government said Tuesday.

And roughly 85 percent of the employment growth - about 2 million workers - was attributable to new full-time, year-round jobs, the Labor Department said.

Since the depths of the 1981-82 recession, the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said, the number of people working full-time - described as 35 hours a week or more for 50 to 52 weeks a year - has climbed by 10.5 million.

Meanwhile, the number of people with part-time jobs declined by about 1 million, to 27.1 million, in 1986, dispelling a myth that part-time workers have been responsible for the large job growth of the past five years.

″All we seem to have been hearing about is hamburger flippers,″ said Earl Mellor, a BLS economist. ″What we are finding in the numbers are more high- quality-type jobs. There are a lot more office buildings than hamburger stands being built.″

Among men, the number who held jobs part-time during the year declined by 1,000 from 1985 while the number holding full-time, year-round jobs increased by 934,000.

The number of women holding full-time, year-round jobs rose by more than 1 million in 1986, and part-time employment among women increased by 359,000.

The 69 percent of Americans over the age of 16 who held jobs all or part of the year is the highest on record, in figures going back to the mid-1950s, but government statisticians speculate the percentage might have been higher during World War II when women joined the assembly lines en masse to maintain the war effort.

In the 1960s and early the 1970s - before the influx of women in large numbers into the labor force - the share of working-age Americans holding full-time jobs hovered in the range of 65 percent to 66 percent.

The percentage climbed to 68.9 percent in 1979 but fell back to below 67 percent with the recession before rising again.

Women continued to dominate the rising employment numbers last year, accounting for 60 percent of the growth. The increase of 1.4 million working women was higher than the rise of 1 million in 1985 but considerably below the 2.1 million gain in 1984.

About 28.5 million women - roughly half of those working and 30 percent of the female population age 16 and over - held full-time jobs in 1986. In contrast, only 41 percent of working women and 21 percent of the over-16 female population held full-time, year-round jobs in 1970.

The share of the male population working sometime during the year remained unchanged from 1985 at 78.8 percent. About two-thirds of the working men held full-time, year-round jobs.

For both men and women, younger workers 16 to 24 accounted for about half of those working less than full-time, year-round schedules, the BLS said.

Among other demographic groups, Hispanics had employment growth of 560,000 in 1986, blacks had an increase of 300,000 and whites 1.8 million.

The proportion of blacks who experienced some unemployment during the year was unchanged from 1985 at 25 percent, but the proportion of whites unemployed at some point was 15 percent, down from 15.6 percent.

A total of 20.7 million Americans, or roughly 16.2 percent of the labor force, reported experiencing at least one week of unemployment during 1986. That number was 280,000 higher in 1985. About 22 percent of the labor force reported some unemployment during the recession year of 1982.

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