NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ObamaCare Is Lowering Part-Time Workers' Hours

August 14, 2013

Something odd is happening to the workweek, unpublished data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) show. Even as the number of people working has grown by 2.2 million, or 1.6 percent, over the past year, the number clocking 30 to 34 hours a week has shrunk. In the second quarter, the number of workers putting in 30 to 34 hours at their primary job fell by a monthly average of 146,500, or 1.4 percent, from a year earlier, says Investor's Business Daily.

  • By comparison, the number working 25-29 hours per week in their primary job rose by 119,000, or 2.7 percent.
  • This oddity has an obvious explanation: ObamaCare's employer mandate applies only to full-time workers, which the law defines as 30 hours per week.
  • As the White House and some liberal economists step up denials that the 2010 health law is messing with the work hours of modest-wage workers, these CPS data provide the clearest evidence yet that the employer mandate is having a measurable impact.

Along with more workers clocking just below 30 hours in their primary jobs, CPS data show the number working 20-29 hours in secondary jobs rose 105,000, or 7.6 percent, from a year ago. Other Labor Department data also suggest an ObamaCare effect.

  • The average retail workweek for non-supervisors shrank to a three-year low of 30 hours in July, down from a post-recession peak of 30.8 hours in January 2012.
  • That's the sharpest decline in the retail workweek since the early 1980s.

Temp employment has surged, likely because temps can work for at least six months without triggering ObamaCare's mandate, and their hours are unlimited.

Many have pointed to part-time employment as a good barometer of ObamaCare's impact, but that too has limitations, beyond gauging how much of it is tied to the economy. Actually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' under-35-hours-per-week definition of part-time means that many workers facing hour cuts already were considered part-time.

Further, employers looking to retain valued employees may offer a choice between working at least 35 hours or fewer than 30 to spread any increased cost over longer average workweeks for full timers.

This could help explain why the average leisure and hospitality workweek has remained flat at about 25 hours. First, it is so low already that workers getting hired for 28 hours per week would raise the average. Second, some may be working extra hours.

Source: Jed Graham "ObamaCare Spurs Shift Away From 30-34-Hour Workweek," Investor's Business Daily, August 5, 2013.


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