Some policy experts warned that new rules under the Affordable Care Act, which will require employers of over 50 full-time workers to provide health coverage to employees, would lead companies to shift towards offering low-quality, part-time jobs as a means to stave off cost increases while achieving compliance with the law. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ June jobs report technically does demonstrate a relative drop in unemployment from 6.3 to 6.1, according to the U-3 measure that does not count discouraged workers or the underemployed. It also noted a drop in the more accurate U-6 unemployment measure, which factors in underemployment and discouraged workers, from 12.2 to 12.1. However, a closer look at the quality of the jobs added seems to support the argument that the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, set to launch in phases over 2015 and 2016, could be causing a massive shift in the economy from full-time to part-time work.
The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch is reporting that when seasonally adjusted full and part-time employment measures are compared month-over-month from May to June, full-time jobs dropped by an alarming 523,000, while the economy added 799,000 part-time jobs. While the employment market did grow by 288,000 jobs, the numbers suggest that the quality of those positions might be poor, especially considering the fact that the economy has shown no real wage growth for two months back-to-back.
The number of people who consider themselves employed part-time for economic reasons due to cut-backs in hours at work or an inability to find a full-time job increased by 275,000. While some might assume that the spike in part-time work is being caused by college students picking up summer jobs, the data shows that it is older Americans and the long-term unemployed, rather than young people, who are joining the ranks of part-time workers. The Washington Post pointed out that an assessment by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco noted that the demographics of part-time employees have shifted away from young people gaining experience at their first jobs and have instead made gains in the 25-54 year-old category, as single adults without high school diplomas are starting to take over those positions to make ends meet after suffering through long-term periods of unemployment. Also, the number of people above age 16 who are not participating in the labor force increased by 111,000 month-over-month, which is a faster pace than the predicted rate of retirement. Despite these alarming metrics, President Obama is touting this month’s jobs numbers as a success, claiming that “We have not seen more consistent job growth since the ’90s.”
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