Obama's healthcare program not costing full-time jobs, White House says

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:39pm EDT

The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as ''Obamacare'', outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Mississippi October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as ''Obamacare'', outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Mississippi October 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Bachman

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Tuesday there was no evidence President Barack Obama's signature healthcare program is driving up the number of part-time workers, challenging the view of many business owners in the country.

Conservative Republicans have pointed to the high level of part-time employment as evidence businesses are cutting hours for their staffs in response to the new healthcare law, which will require them to offer health insurance to full-time workers.

And, indeed, one in five businesses in the service sector think the program, popularly known as "Obamacare," has hurt employment at their firms over the last three months, a National Association of Business Economics survey showed on Monday.

Many businesses polled by the NABE said they were holding back on hiring due to the costs imposed by the law, and the survey also showed 15 percent of service sector firms planned to shift to more part-time workers due to Obamacare.

But economic data on employment has been less compelling.

The number of people with part-time jobs who want full-time work, for example, was essentially flat in September at 7.9 million.

"We are not seeing any effect in the data," Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told Reuters Insider.

Also, the number of part-time workers spiked in 2008, well before Obamacare was enacted, and has been slowly falling as a share of total employment since 2010. In September, people working part time because they could not find full-time work made up 5.5 percent of the employed, unchanged from August.

The spike in 2008 and the steady drift downward since then suggests the elevated level of part-time workers is more likely due to the economy's weakness.

The issue is a sensitive one for the administration, which is also on the defensive over a clunky roll-out of a website workers use to navigate the new health insurance landscape created by Obamacare.

While many economists say there is a logical reason for employers to cut back on workers' hours, the pressure to do so this year eased in July when the White House delayed the beginning of Obamacare's so-called "employer mandate" until January 2015.

Under the mandate, which was previously due to take effect in January 2014, firms with more than 50 employees must provide reasonable healthcare insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

"Health reform's employer mandate is likely to have some effect on hours worked, but it hasn't yet shown up in the data," Paul Van de Water, an analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in a report earlier this month.

Ron Axelrad, chief executive of Access Staffing, which places part- and full-time employees across the greater New York City area, said his firm had been getting a lot of calls from companies six months ago about how to prepare for Obamacare.

But the delay of the employer mandate has pushed the issue "out of everyone's mind," he said.

"Probably toward the second or third quarter of next year, companies will be very aware again that they have to prepare," Axelrad added.

(Additional reporting by Alister Bull in Washington and Steven C. Johnson in New York; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Jackie Frank)

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Comments (52)
gcf1965 wrote:
So just ignore the story after story from individuals, businesses and organizations that have shown specific companies and industries moving to part time labor and believe us, the ones who have botched this whole thing. AReally, we are the only ones telling the truth, trust us.

Oct 22, 2013 10:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Speaker2 wrote:
@gcf1965 Guess you have never owned and ran a company. Part timers are common in some industries, such as fast food and other service industries. For many companies having a large part time work force is inefficient and you end up with a large employee turn over. Much of the stories heard are over blown, non-confirmed Faux New stories.

Oct 22, 2013 11:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
KLeggott wrote:
You should be ashamed of this very misleading headline. The quote in the body concerns job creation only, while the headline does not include that limitation. The headline implies that the overall effect of Obamacare is not to increase the number of part time workers, but the article does not really address that point. I expect better than this from Reuters.

Oct 22, 2013 11:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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