When just one job isn't enough: Why are a growing number of Americans taking on multiple gigs?

 The number of Americans working two or more jobs has reached its highest level since the pandemic’s start, new federal data show, a trend that suggests more of us are feeling inflation’s pinch.

Nearly 8.4 million people held multiple jobs in October, the Labor Department reported Friday. They represent 5.2% of the workforce, the largest share of moonlighters since January 2020.

Employment statistics show that 5.9% of women worked multiple jobs in October, compared with 4.7% of men. Roughly 5 million Americans held one full-time and one part-time job. Nearly 2 million held two part-time gigs. Another 1.1 million said they held jobs where the hours varied. Fewer than 400,000 held two full-time jobs.

The share of Americans working multiple jobs reached 5.3% in the summer of 2019, then plunged during the early months of the pandemic, bottoming out in the spring of 2020. The figure has crept up since then.

Experts say people may be taking on extra work in response to inflation, which pushed prices up 4.7% in 2021, 8% in 2022, and 3.5% so far in 2023. Inflation has outpaced wage growth through much of that span.

“Paying for necessities has become more of a challenge, and affording luxuries and discretionary items has become more difficult, if not impossible for some, particularly those at the lower ends of the income and wealth spectrums,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, in an email.

People who take a second job may also be bracing for possible layoffs, which tend to peak at the start of a new year. They could be padding their coffers for the holidays.

“There’s some seasonality to it,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “People picking up jobs during the holidays, things like that.”

She and other analysts said the upward trend in multiple jobs shows the nation returning to seasonal employment patterns, a cycle disrupted by the pandemic.

“I think, overall, it points to a return to pre-pandemic normal,” said Elizabeth Renter, data analyst and senior writer at NerdWallet, in an email. If the share of multiple job holders continues to rise, she said, “it could be indicative of a more significant underlying trend.”

Renter notes that the number of people working one full-time and one part-time job stands at an all-time high. The number of workers with two full-time jobs reached a historic peak in September.

One reason, she said, could be the rise of working from home.

Remote workers are more likely to take a second job

The pandemic triggered an explosion of remote work. The freedom and flexibility it offers have inspired some employees to take on second jobs, sometimes in secret.

“More jobs allow telecommuting now, making it easier to take on two jobs, even two full-time jobs,” Renter said. Workers “save time by not dealing with a commute and may have more freedom to set their schedule, leading to increased productivity.”

Indeed, employees who can work remotely are more likely to take on multiple jobs than workers in office-bound roles, said Emma Harrington, an economist at the University of Virginia.

Since the start of the pandemic, the share of workers holding multiple jobs “has recovered more and, suggestively, even sometimes exceeds pre-covid levels among those with ‘removable’ occupations,” Harrington said in an email.

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