Part-Time Work Still Up, but Health Law Isn’t the Cause

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Millions of Americans remained stuck in part-time jobs in September, but there’s little evidence to support claims that the federal health-care law is to blame.

Part-time employment rose during the recession and remains far above historical norms. Critics of the 2010 Affordable Care Act have suggested the trend could be due to its provision that requires many companies to offer health insurance to full-time employees beginning in 2015. That rule, critics argue, provides companies with an incentive to hire part-timers—and some employers have said they are already shifting to part-timers.

But recent jobs data provide little evidence that’s happening. Part-time employment remains elevated—at 19% of employment in September, compared with about 17% before the recession—but the increase came during the recession, long before the health law was passed. Part-time work as a share of overall employment has been falling since 2010, although the decline has been slow and at times uneven. During the past year, full-time employment has increased by 1.6 million, while part-time employment has fallen by nearly 300,000, according to the Labor Department.

Moreover, the Labor statistics count as “part-time” many people who would qualify as full-time under the health law. The Labor Department counts anyone who works less than 35 hours as part-time, while the health law draws the line at 30 hours.

No matter what the cause, many Americans are stuck working fewer hours than they’d like. Nearly 8 million workers said they were working part time in September because they couldn’t find full-time jobs, down from 8.6 million a year ago, but roughly flat compared with recent months.

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