By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON Oct 22 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
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
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
"We are not seeing any effect in the data," Jason Furman,
chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told
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
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,"