The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is the principal Federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy.
July 2019 | Vol. 8 / No. 9
E M P L O Y M E N T A N D U N E M P L O Y M E N T
Has the required skill level of part-time
jobs changed over time?
By Nicole Dangermond, Kristen Monaco, and Kristin Smyth
Multiple studies exist that trace the increase in part-time employment in the United States. Some studies
attempt to measure the pay gap between full-time and part-time workers, but little research exists that
addresses the type of work performed by part-time workers and how the skills required in the job may have
changed over time.1 For example, part-time warehouse workers may be assigned more strenuous jobs than
their full-time counterparts. Part-time receptionist jobs may involve only answering phones and routing calls
while full-time receptionists may involve more complex interpersonal interactions.
This Beyond the Numbers article looks at the level of skill involved in part-time work and how it has changed
between 2007 and 2017 using data from the National Compensation Survey (NCS).
U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
The NCS is an establishment survey used as the basis for the Employment Cost Index (ECI) and the Employer
Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) estimates produced quarterly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS).2 The collected data are focused around the job, not the employee(s) in the job.
Work level determination
A unique aspect of the NCS is a series of questions that help BLS economists determine work levels—that is,
the duties and responsibilities of a job are evaluated to give the job an overall work level between 1 and 15. BLS
economists who collect the data assess and assign points to four components: knowledge, job controls and
complexity, contacts, and physical environment. These points are added and then jobs are assigned levels from
1 to 15, akin to those used in the federal pay setting.3 Level 1 work is characterized as unskilled labor requiring
no previous experience or consisting of routine tasks for which little training is required. Level 2 and 3 work