Obamacare Not to Blame for Part-Time Jobs

Friday, 15 Feb 2013 07:59 AM

By Michael Carr

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There are a number of problems with the Affordable Care Act, and Obamacare is very likely to cause problems for businesses and exert downward pressure on economic growth.

But for now, the data do not support the claim that companies are turning to part-time workers to avoid the law’s onerous mandates.

It is true that the number of part-time workers is near record highs, but the number of employed people is also near record highs. Because of the upward trend in population growth, there should always be new records set when looking at the number of workers.

Workers forced to accept part-time work for economic reasons make up less than 2 percent of the work force. The percentage doubled in the Great Recession, but has stabilized now and is well below record highs.

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The percentage of part-time jobs due to a bad economy seems to fall to around 1 percent or less during periods of economic expansion and then jump when recession strikes. The pattern seen during and after the most recent recession closely resembles what we saw in the 1950s.

Part-time jobs as a percentage of the work force peaked in the 1980s near 3.5 percent and remained above 2 percent until the mid-1990s. Since bottoming near 0.5 percent in 2000, the percentage of workers seeking full-time work but unable to find it has risen steadily.

This rise, however, is the normal pattern seen after recessions. While Obamacare may eventually have an impact on the number of part-time jobs, that effect is not yet visible in the data. Legitimate concerns about the mandates of the law do exist and should remain the focus of debate, but until the percentage of part-time jobs increases from its current level, that issue does not seem like a concern.

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