No, Obamacare Hasn’t Led To An Increase In Part-Time Jobs

Obamacare Jobs

The Article: One Of The Great Anti-Obamacare Lies Exposed — Data Proves ACA Not Responsible For Growth In Part-Time Jobs by Rick Ungar in Forbes.

The Text: One of the more popular economic myths spun by the anti-Obamacare forces is the suggestion that employers are avoiding the law by moving to an employee model based on part-time workers rather than full-time employees.

For those committed to destroying the Affordable Care act by any means possible, who can blame them for seeking to misdirect based on using only a small part of the data as it pertains to employment when telling the full story blows up the entire meme? Such a claim is, after all, ear candy for an audience looking for any reason to hate the law, even if they don’t quite know why they so are so displeased.

The problem, however, is that this popular line of attack comes with a rather significant flaw—the claim is provably false.

While there are, no doubt, a few companies out there moving to increase part-time employees at the expense of full-time workers—mostly involving retail and fast food companies that have always depended heavily on a part-time employee model—it turns out that the frantic claims arguing that the ACA is causing some massive loss of full-time work is simply not supported by the empirical data.

While we will get to that data in just a moment, to better understand how the opponents of healthcare reform are selling this bit of disinformation, it is important to know the basis of their claim.

It begins by acknowledging that 27 million Americans are currently employed in part-time jobs—a number that is, in fact, well above the historical norms.

Left on its own, that bit of information ties in quite nicely with the suggestion that we can hold Obamacare responsible for these numbers when one considers that employing full-time workers holds the potential for greater benefits obligations for a company with 50 or more employees.

However, when one looks just one layer beneath the surface—a bit of research one might expect honest brokers to perform before informing the public that the sky is falling—a very different picture emerges.

There are—as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—two classifications of part-time workers.

Those who are working 35 hours or less because they cannot accomplish the full-time employment they desire are called “part-time for economic reasons”, while those who work 35 hours or less because that is all the work they want are part-time by choice.

A more careful review of the latest BLS jobs report out last week—a review in which the anti-Obamacare forces do not want you to engage in—reveals that while we do, indeed, currently have 27 million part-time workers in the economy, only 8 million of these people are working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job.

That means that 19 million Americans are working part-time because that is all the work they desire to have.

What’s more, not only does the September jobs report reveal that the number of part-timers wishing for full-time work showed no increase when compared to the previous month’s numbers, the report provides a piece of data far more important—

In September of 2012, the number of part-timers seeking full-time work comprised 6 percent of the workforce. One year later, the September jobs report reveals that the number has shrunk to 5.5 percent.

Thus, not only has this supposed employer desire to avoid Obamacare not increased the number of part-time workers in the country; we actually see that the numbers are on the decline.

Now, before you launch into a cynical attack on the numbers as something ‘fudged’ by the Obama Administration, you might want to bear in mind that the opponents of the ACA have based their own argument on the very same numbers—albeit using only the top-line figures to make their misleading point rather than conveying the full data that shows a very different result.

As the old saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

There is something else you should probably know when attempting to make sense of the part-time worker picture—

As the following BLS chart reveals, the number of part-time workers as a percentage of the entire workforce has been on the decline since the numbers peaked with the onset of our deep recession in 2008—well before the concept of Obamacare entered into the public lexicon and conscious.

Part-Time Work

Does it surprise anyone that, as the economy has improved—even if far slower than we would like—the number of part-time workers have declined?

Yet, to hear the anti-Obamacare forces tell the story, not only is part-time work increasing—when it very clearly is not—they have chosen to pretend that this is the result of the Affordable Care Act rather than obvious impact our economic circumstances would naturally play in the part-time versus full-time worker scenario.

Clearly, more part-time workers seeking full-time employment have found more success as the economy has improved.

So, should we give Obamacare the credit for the reduction in part-time numbers? I don’t think so as, to do so, would be as ridiculous as the efforts to blame Obamacare for the large top-line number of part-time jobs.

More liberal babble from an Obamacare apologist?

While you are entitled to think so if this brings some measure of comfort, you should probably know that even the staunchly anti-Obamacare publication, The Wall Street Journal—relying on data rather than right-wing hysteria—has reached the very same conclusion.

If you find yourself surprised that so much of the part-time workforce is comprised of people preferring a shorter workweek to a full-time job, you might ask yourself who, typically, seeks part-time work?

Many of us can recall our younger days as students in need of some spending money. We were not the least bit interested in full-time employment at that time, only that weekend job to earn some gasoline and date money.

Nothing much has changed in this regard for today’s high school and college students as they continue to occupy their spot in the count of part-time workers by choice.

So, where did the growth in part-time workers by choice come from following our recession?

The answer can be found in two categories—

First, we have the homemakers who elect to make the children their priority when allocating their time.

When the recession hit, many of these people found that the breadwinner in the family was being adversely affected by the poor economy and resolved to help the family finances by getting a part-time job to augment income. Now, as the economy slowly improves, some of these people are able to leave the workforce entirely and return full-time to their desired day job—”stay-at-home” mom or dad. This is, no doubt, playing a role in the declining number of part-time workers in the workforce.

Secondly, we have those who hit retirement age only to discover that their savings and Social Security payments were insufficient to support the lifestyle they had hoped to experience during their sunset years.

It is no secret that the lack of sufficient savings to support of seniors in retirement is turning into an epidemic problem. If you are, somehow, unaware of this, I recommend that you read a piece entitled, “The U.S. To Face A Married Couples Retirement Crisis” written by my Forbes colleague, Richard Eisenberg, to get up to speed.

As a result of the difficulties facing retirees, it can come as no surprise that, as the baby boomers have reached the age of retirement, they play—and will continue to play—a major part in increasing the number of part-time workers in the country. These are people who want to, at the least, accomplish semi-retirement if they cannot afford to fully retire and opt to augment their savings and Social Security with part-time work.

When you consider how and why the numbers of part-time by choice employees grew following the onset of the recession and the arrival of baby boomer retirement, only the hardest of heads can fail to see how the top-line number of part-time workers grew, why it is now decreasing and why a full two-thirds of the part-time work force chose to be part-time workers. It would also take a very committed ideologue to avoid the stark fact that these part-timers by choice are not relevant to an analysis of the impact of Obamacare on the availability of full-time work.

What is relevant to the question are the eight million part-timer for economic reasons.

Given that the data is crystal clear that these numbers are falling year-to-year, it defies logic to claim that Obamacare is forcing these numbers upward. Indeed, even if the number of people forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time work was on the rise, it would not make the case that Obamacare is to blame as the weak economy would present a better explanation. Such a result would, however, at least give some basis for the possibility that the ACA is as fault.

But with the numbers of those who are part-time because they can’t find full time work falling, the argument becomes absurd.

As I often note, there are some valid arguments—even if I might disagree with the much of the logic behind theses arguments—to support those who wish to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act.

However, when the opinion-leaders who seek to guide your point of view away from a fair, reasonable and rational assessment of the law by feeding you false arguments and half-stories easily disproven by readily obtainable data, it defies reason that anyone—whether for or against the law—would believe anything else these people are trying to peddle.

Simply put, if you are going to hate this law, don’t you think you should hate it based on actual information and data rather than half-truths and misrepresentations?

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