The government's latest employment report shows weaker-than-expected job growth in March, but it has a bright spot: More part-time workers appear to be getting full-time jobs.
That's a good sign for both the economy and the labor market.
The number of part-time workers who can't find full-time jobs -- or involuntary part-time employees -- fell from 8.1 million in February to 7.7 million. It's down from 8.5 million a year ago.
The number of voluntary part-time workers also declined, by 365,000 to 5.1 million.
At the same time, the ranks of full-time workers jumped by 882,000, the most since April 2000, according to the Labor Department's household survey. That survey determines the unemployment rate, now 8.2%, down from 8.3% in February.
All told, employment was virtually unchanged at 142 million.
But that's likely because many part-time workers snared full-time jobs, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.
The household survey supplements Labor's survey of employers, which showed a more widely reported gain of 120,000 jobs. The household tally differs in part because it includes the self-employed and agricultural workers, and better captures start-up businesses.
The growth of full-time jobs and the decline of part-time work is encouraging. It means many employers converted part-time jobs to full time, reflecting a growing confidence that "the work they have is going to be there for a while," Zandi says.
Workers can depend on a steady paycheck that won't soon disappear, he says. And they benefit from higher wages that they'll likely spend, juicing the economy and creating still more jobs, says John Silvia, Wells Fargo chief economist.
Harry Griendling, CEO of DoubleStar, a staffing consultant, says many employers are converting contracting jobs -- both part-time and full-time -- to permanent full-time positions.
The transition, he says, is occurring as companies add recruiters and benefits specialists, information technology workers and product managers, among other jobs.
Vicki Lehr of Branford, Conn., spent most of last year working as a part-time saleswoman at a garden center after she lost her job as a golf course horticulturist. In December, she got a full-time job as a groundskeeper at a private school. "I'm able to pay my bills and stay afloat," says Lehr, 52.
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