An age of uncertain work: Americans miss stability and a shared sense of purpose in their jobs

phys.org | 7/9/2019 | Staff
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On the surface, the well-being of the American worker seems rosy.

Unemployment in the U.S. hovers near a 50-year low, and employers describe growing shortages of workers in a wide array of fields.

Numbers - Story - Book - Importance - Work

But looking beyond the numbers tells a different story. My new book, "The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty," reveals that some Americans are experiencing an erosion in the world of work that is hurting their well-being, relationships and hopes for the future.

We can't simply blame the rise of the gig economy. It's also a result of a growing impermanence in the U.S. economy, with more short-term jobs that lack security and decent benefits. At the same time, worker wages continue to stagnate, which underscores the breadth of the problem.

Unemployment - Rate - Percent - Economists - Others

The unemployment rate, which at 3.7 percent is about the lowest since 1969, is the usual metric economists and others use to understand the labor market and how workers are faring.

Although statistics like this suggest there's an abundance of jobs in the American labor market, it tells us nothing about their quality and ignores a more complex reality. Moreover, it fails to account for the growing and disconcerting prevalence of what is called precarious work, or short-term or contract jobs with minimal protections for workers such as less sick time or no health insurance.

Examples - Uber - Drivers - TaskRabbit - Freelancers

The most obvious examples are Uber drivers and TaskRabbit freelancers but also include coders, warehouse workers and many others who are on short-term contracts. According to recent estimates, this type of work now makes up about 11 percent of all jobs.

While the growth in precarious work is slow, more disconcerting is the fact that 94 percent of new jobs are short-term.

Wages - Americans - Decades - Stress - Today

Along with wages that have barely budged for most Americans in decades, this is creating serious stress for today's workers.

To explore the impact of the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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