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Using Administrative Data, Census Bureau Can Now Track the Rise in Multiple Jobholders

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How many people in the U.S. economy hold two or more jobs? Has this number been increasing or decreasing over time? Are men or women more likely to work more than one job? How much money do individuals earn from multiple jobs?

These questions are of great interest to economists and policymakers as they seek to understand how individuals string together multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD), we created a way to measure multiple jobholding that reveals a trend not previously documented by other research: the percentage of U.S. workers who hold more than one job has been increasing during the past 20 years.

Women hold multiple jobs at a higher rate than men and the rate has increased in the last 20 years.

LEHD relies on administrative data that include nearly all wage and salary workers and produces statistics on local and national labor market dynamics. It produces the data at no additional collection burden on workers or businesses.

How do we define a multiple jobholder? LEHD defines a multiple jobholder as anyone who holds two or more jobs in a quarter and at least one of these jobs is a long-lasting, stable job — meaning a job held in the previous, current and subsequent quarters.

A thorough discussion of this definition and the LEHD data are available in this Center for Economic Studies working paper.

Multiple Jobholding on the Rise

Multiple jobholding has become more prevalent in the U.S. economy over the past two decades.

Over the entire 22-year time period from the second quarter of 1996 to the first quarter of 2018, the multiple jobholding rate has averaged 7.2% of all employed individuals, according to the LEHD data.

The multiple jobholding rate is defined as the number of multiple jobholders in a given quarter divided by the total number of employed persons.

Figure 1 shows the seasonally adjusted time series of the multiple jobholding rate. The multiple jobholding rate increased from 6.8% in the second quarter of 1996 to 7.8% in the first quarter of 2018.

An increasing multiple jobholding rate in the U.S. economy during the past two decades differs from what other data sources show. Specifically, the multiple jobholding rate calculated from the Current Population Survey (CPS) has been declining during the past several decades.

As highlighted in our working paper, there is no simple nor straightforward explanation for why the LEHD and the CPS show divergent trends of the multiple jobholding rate; more research needs to be done on this issue.

The multiple jobholding rate in Figure 1 shows cyclical patterns: it rises during economic expansions and falls during recessions.

For example, the multiple jobholding rate declined by 0.4 percentage points during the 2001 recession, from 7.3% in the fourth quarter of 2000 to 6.9% in the fourth quarter of 2001. It also declined during the 2007-09 recession by 0.6 percentage points, from 7.6% in the third quarter of 2007 to 7.0% in the second quarter of 2009.


Are Men or Women More Likely to Work Multiple Jobs?

Women hold multiple jobs at a higher rate than men and the rate has increased in the last 20 years.

In the first quarter of 2018, 9.1% of women and 6.6% of men were working more than one job.

For men, the trend of multiple jobholding has been relatively flat over the last 20 years, rising by 0.3 percentage points from 6.3% to 6.6%.

However, the multiple jobholding rate for women has increased by 1.6 percentage points during the same period, from 7.5% to 9.1%.

Industries of Multiple Jobholders

Our working paper also shows that most multiple jobs are clustered in a few industries. Here’s the percentage of second jobs by sector:

  • 16.8% in healthcare and social assistance.
  • 16.7% in accommodation and food services.
  • 14.5% in retail trade.
  • 10.8% in administrative and support and waste management and remediation services.

Earnings of Multiple Jobholders

Individuals who are not multiple jobholders earned, on average, $15,750 from their full-quarter job in the first quarter of 2018. Full-quarter jobs are long-lasting, stable jobs that exist in the previous quarter, the current quarter and the following quarter.

Multiple jobholders earn less.

Individuals with full-quarter jobs who are multiple jobholders earned an average $9,770 from their primary job in the first quarter of 2018 and an average $3,780 from all secondary jobs during that same quarter for a total of $13,550 from all jobs.

Why do persons with multiple jobs earn less, on average, from all jobs compared to persons with only one long-lasting, stable job? Our working paper shows that this earnings differential is due to age, gender and the industries that employ multiple jobholders.

On average, earnings on all multiple jobs account for 28% of a multiple jobholder’s total earnings ($3,780 divided by $13,550). Figure 2 shows how this 28% varies across the earnings distribution.

The horizontal axis of Figure 2 shows the percentiles of total earnings for persons with a long-lasting, stable job.



It shows that for multiple jobholders with relatively low earnings (total earnings at or below the 18th percentile), their second job or jobs provides, on average, more than 30% of their total earnings. For all other individuals, multiple jobholding provides over 25% of their total earnings.

One of the most striking findings is that the share of total earnings that come from multiple jobholding is above 25% for every percentile.

Even multiple jobholders who are high earners — in the top 10 percentiles of the earnings distribution, making $28,300 or more per quarter in real 2018 first-quarter dollars from all jobs combined — receive approximately a fourth of their total earnings from their second jobs.

This suggests that the average multiple job held by these high earnings individuals is not a minor one-off source of earnings, such as working part-time one or two weekends a year, but rather a persistent additional job. Examples likely include doctors who have one job in their practice and another job at the hospital, a pattern that warrants further research.

Our research has presented a new multiple jobholding measure computed from the LEHD data, showing that the multiple jobholding rate has been increasing in the U.S. economy during the past two decades.


Keith A. Bailey is the assistant center chief for LEHD Research in the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau.

James R. Spletzer is a principal economist in the Center for Economic Studies.


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Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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