Obamacare and part-time jobs: The myth exploded (again)
Tuesday’s tepid brew of jobs data, delayed more than two weeks by the government shutdown, wasn’t worth waiting for. It shows an increase in total nonfarm employment by 148,000 in September over August, which is consistent with economic growth crawling along in second gear.
The report’s most notable nugget is the change in part-time work. Over the last month the number of workers in part-time jobs for economic reasons--slack demand, cutbacks in hours--has remained stable. Over the last year, however, it has fallen by 681,000. Those part-timers also constitute a smaller share of all workers--5.5% in September compared to 6% a year earlier.
That puts the lie to the popular conservative meme that Obamacare has transformed America’s workforce into part-timers. The idea is that employers wishing to evade the law’s requirement that they offer health insurance to employees working more than 30 hours a week will cut their hours to 29 or less. The shorthand about this provided by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), that one-stop shop for Obamacare disinformation, was “single parents who have been forced into part-time work.”
Previous employment reports have shown no evidence for that, and the new report undermines the myth further. Moreover, the monthly report defines “part-time” more loosely than the Affordable Care Act -- 35 hours a week or less, compared to the ACA’s 30 hours--which means there’s even less evidence for the Obamacare/part-time meme.
The jobs data were collected before the shutdown, so that Republican wound to the economy won’t show up until the next jobs report a month from now. But this report does sharpen the picture of the effect of another continuing fiscal blunder by Washington--the sequester. Job growth has hovered around 150,000 per month since March, when the sequester’s broad-based government spending cuts went into effect.
That’s dismal compared to the robust growth that should be visible at this stage of an economic recovery, and underscores how Congress has taken its eyes off the jobs ball. It’s also a reminder that programs to help Americans cope with an arid employment landscape are still important. Those include food stamp benefits, which, as we reported Monday, are about to be cut. Your Congress, masters of bad timing.