Obamacare And Part Time Jobs Growth

by: Steven Hansen


One should understand that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has usually conflicting elements in their Jobs Report.

The portion of the Jobs Report which should accurately convey part time jobs has not changed its trend since the end of the Great Recession.

It appears the number of part time jobs has been constant for 6 years.

When it comes to employment statistics, it is pretty easy to prove any opinion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) obliges our need for data by using two very different methodologies for compiling the monthly employment situation - the household survey vs. the establishment survey.

From the BLS:

Data based on household interviews are obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a sample survey of the population 16 years of age and over. The survey is conducted each month by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides comprehensive data on the labor force, the employed, and the unemployed, classified by such characteristics as age, sex, race, family relationship, marital status, occupation, and industry attachment. The survey also provides data on the characteristics and past work experience of those not in the labor force. The information is collected by trained interviewers from a sample of about 50,000 households located in 792 sample areas. These areas are chosen to represent all counties and independent cities in the U.S., with coverage in 50 States and the District of Columbia. The data collected are based on the activity or status reported for the calendar week including the 12th of the month.

Data based on establishment records are compiled each month from mail questionnaires and telephone interviews by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in cooperation with State agencies. The Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey is designed to provide industry information on nonfarm wage and salary employment, average weekly hours, average hourly earnings, and average weekly earnings for the Nation, States, and metropolitan areas. The employment, hours, and earnings data are based on payroll reports from a sample of over 390,000 establishments employing over 47 million nonfarm wage and salary workers, full or part time, who receive pay during the payroll period which includes the 12th of the month. The household and establishment data complement one another, each providing significant types of information that the other cannot suitably supply. Population characteristics, for example, are obtained only from the household survey, whereas detailed industrial classifications are much more reliably derived from establishment reports.

Monthly, we are faced with an employment report that provides different answers to marginally different questions - "What is the current employment situation?" Not to blow this out of proportion - the general trends for these two methodologies are similar, but differ in magnitude. I am NOT a fan of surveys (especially ones that try to model the population of the USA) as they rely on the perceptions of the surveyor, and the honesty and understanding of the surveyee. Having said this, there are portions of the household survey which are not duplicated in the establishment survey - such as unemployment stats or Part Time employment.

There has been much discussion of Part Time employment recently - as many right wing pundits are claiming Obamacare is responsible for a perceived increase. Doug Short penned an analysis concluding:

With regard to Obamacare and part-time employment, as I've repeatedly emphasized: The surge in part-time employment was triggered by the recession, not by the Affordable Care Act, as the next chart clearly illustrates.

What follows is a similar chart, for all age groups and for people who want to work full time but cannot find full time employment. This chart too suggests that Obamacare is not noticeably elevating Part Time employment. However, there is no way to prove that the number of people employed part time would not have declined faster had Obamacare not been implemented. That would be a difficult case to make, in my opinion.

A little side note on the household survey - note that full time employment has not reached the pre-recession peak.

And note further that the household survey also does not show the total employment in the USA has reached the pre-recession peak.

It seems that the rise in Part Time employment is a New Normal phenomenon probably unrelated to Obamacare but more likely related to other causes.

I am not a fan of Obamacare - an abomination which has as many bad elements as good elements. But there is no data to suggest it is creating noticeable Part Time job gains at the expense of Full Time jobs.

My usual weekly wrap is in my instablog.

Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it. The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.