The long-term perspective on Obamacare and employment

Ted Cruz stock

Texas Senator Ted Cruz spent last night on the floor of the U.S. Senate filibustering talking about defunding the Affordable Care Act in the House-passed Continuing Resolution. It wasn’t actually a filibuster, just an overly long speech in the guise of a filibuster. I’ll leave the merits of his effort to others to write about, but just about every opposing talking point concerning the health care law has come up so far. One of those, on the wellworn argument about the consequences of the ACA’s employer mandate provision on part-time employment, deserves some perspective.

Primarily, I mean the long term perspective. The basic argument is that the ACA is either A) destroying full-time jobs, B) turning us into a part-time nation, or C) some combination of both. The basic counter-argument is either A) there really isn’t any macro evidence for either, or B) part-time employment was growing before the ACA. When folks write that the increase in part time work precedes the passage of the law, this graph is what they’re referring to:

Employed, Usually Work PT 9.24

Maybe you’re wondering, exactly, where in this picture is the ACA supposedly creating a nation of part-time workers.

Well, it’s here:


Yet, wouldn’t you know it, there’s actually a long-term trend for full-time work. Which looks like this;

Employed, Usually Work FT 9.24

Once again, where is the ACA in this picture?



And, just for reference, here is the long-term look at both measurements:

Employed, Both 9.24

Look, we’re in a messy political climate, and there is probably no ceiling for rhetoric surrounding the ACA. It’s important to remember that the economy, and every little squiggle you read in these trends, is more than just the health care sector. It’s also more than just the Affordable Care Act. The last time I wrote about this subject I made the point that there is a number greater than zero for which this provision will have a negative impact. There are, after all, plenty of anecdotes. But we are talking about 0.6 percent of the labor force for which this provision would show up in part-time employment, and roughly five percent of the four percent of businesses in this country. So as to destroying, fueling, driving, obliterating, creating, well, anything in a macro-economic context the evidence just isn’t there right now.


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