Washington's Changing Workforce

Nonstandard Work Now One Third of Washington Job Market

July 2013 - Private sector employers in Washington’s service industry have become heavily reliant on part- time, temporary and contract workers. They are also adopting policies that effectively cut their workers off employer-based health care. Our new report documents state trends in “nonstandard” or “contingent” employment in Washington.

One key finding of the study is that such jobs now represent nearly a third of the state’s employment market. Other key findings include:

  • A growing share of the workforce in Washington State is part-time (PT), with an increasing number being prime age working adults (ages 25-64) who work PT “involuntarily” because they could not find full-time employment.
  • The rate of PT workers who had access to employer-based health insurance in 2003 was 27.1%; but by 2010 the rate had dropped to only 16.9%.
  • Employers are imposing higher cost-sharing on employees. Employee premium contributions for family coverage nearly tripled between 1999 and 2012.
  • The Affordable Care Act, for the first time in the nation’s history requires that employers provide health care coverage for full-time workers. Unfortunately, the low-road reaction from corporate America appears to be to simply force full-time workers into part-time hours in order to avoid their responsibility under the new federal law. A recent extension by the Obama Administration until 2015 for implementing this part of the Act allows for employers to reconsider this damaging approach that would push corporate costs on to tax-payers.

“The trend could have important implications for how service industry workers fair in our recovering economy,” said David West, an expert on contingent work and Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage. “With Wall Street breaking all-time records and corporations on the rebound, the quality of jobs for regular working people is not improving – indeed many jobs are becoming less reliable and demoralizing.”