Sorry, we're trying out some catchy lines to help the Republicans in their effort to stop Obamacare. They keep pressing the one about how it is causing businesses to shift to part-time workers to avoid the employer sanctions. The basis for these sanctions was originally supposed to be the number of workers employed for an average of more than 30 hours a week in 2013, however in early July the Obama administration announced that it would put off the sanctions for a year.
Nonetheless, we still have many folks pushing the part-time line. Reporters seem to buy it, even if the data don't.
For example, Reuters told us that "three out of every four of the nearly 1 million hires this year are part-time."
That's not what our friends at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report. If we look at the household survey (which gives us part-time employment), there were 1,119,000 more people employed in July than in January of 2012. According to the survey, the number of people involuntarily working part-time (i.e. would prefer full-time employment) increased by 327,000 over this period. The number of people voluntarily working part-time increased by 365,000 over this period. That gives us 692,000 in total. That would be 61.8 percent, which is considerably less than three quarters.
However their story gets worse if we look at the data more closely. These numbers are always erratic. There actually was a sharp fall in the number of people who reported working part-time at the end of 2012 which makes rise in 2013 look larger. If we use July 2012 as the basis of our comparison, then involuntary part-time unemployment is unchanged, while voluntary part-time is up by 282,000. By comparison, total employment is up 966,000. This means that part-time employment accounted for 29.2 percent of the jobs created over the last year.
It is also worth noting that part-time is defined by BLS as working less than 35 hours a week. Since companies would still have been forced to pay a penalty for workers putting in 30-34 hours, we should be seeing an increase in the number of workers putting in just under 30 hours a week if Obamacare is having the bad effect promised by its opponents. Helene Jorgensen and I looked at this issue a couple of months back. We found that, at least through April, the number of people working 26-29 hours a week was actually slightly lower in 2013 than in 2012. Oh well.
Thanks to Michael Ash for calling this one to my attention.
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