A new report suggests an increase in part-time work in 2014 is a result of a slow recovery of full-time jobs following the recession, rather than a consequence of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
"We find no evidence that the ACA had already started increasing part-time work before 2014. We find a small increase in part-time work in 2014 beyond what would be expected at this point in the economic recovery based on prior experience since 2000. This increase in part-time work is fully attributable to an increase in involuntary part-time work," assert Urban Institute analysts
Bowen Garrett and Robert Kaestner in their latest study.
The report is the result of collaboration between the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Using data obtained from the government’s Current Population Survey, the Urban/RWJF researchers argue that the number of part-time jobs, which has been on a decline since 2011, is in line with predictable cyclical trends.
Furthermore, the analysts found that the increase in involuntary part-time work is not specific to the category of part-time work (less than 30 hours per week) as defined by Obamacare.
"Moreover, transitions between full-time and part-time work in 2014 are in line with historic patterns. These findings suggest that the increase in part-time work in 2014 is not ACA related, but more likely due to a slower than normal recovery of full-time jobs following the Great Recession," they write.
Critics of Obamacare frequently cite anecdotal evidence to make their case that employers, particularly in the retail and food industries, have reduced workers' hours and effectively replacing full-time workers with part-time ones.
"Admittedly, it takes a little detective work, but if we systematically review the available empirical evidence in an even-handed fashion, the conclusion seems inescapable: Obamacare is accelerating a disturbing trend towards 'a nation of part-timers,'" argued Chris Conover in a 2013 Forbes article
However, in its latest survey of businesses released on August 21, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported
that Obamacare was having an impact. The Philly Fed asked qualitative questions about whether businesses were making changes to their employment and compensation and more than 18 percent of the firms indicated that the number of workers they employ was lower because of the ACA, while 3 percent indicated higher levels.
The same percentage (18 percent) indicated that the proportion of part-time workers had increased.
Similar findings were reported by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, according to CNBC
The New York Fed found approximately 20 percent of respondents to its survey said they were paying less compensation per worker because of the ACA, and "a similar proportion said they were outsourcing more work," the business network reported.
One explanation for the contradictory findings is that the full law has yet to take effect.
Forbes' contributor Dan Diamond
does not dispute the study's findings, but notes the "big wild card" is that the law's employer mandate hasn’t actually taken effect yet.
"Assuming the mandate does kick in, it’s fair to wonder what the impact on the jobs market would be. In surveys, employers have repeatedly signaled that they’d cut back on their workers’ hours to avoid the ACA’s penalties," writes Diamond, who adds, "that’s the one reason why researchers — while confident that media reports about Obamacare’s current impact are misleading — are hedging their long-term bets."
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