A reader emailed the following question about this weekend’s WaPo column (ObamaCare: Investing Advice for Senator Ted Cruz):

“How can you make investment decisions about future returns in light of Obamacare driving so many workers to part time status?”

Ahhh, a classic bit of misdirection — an assumption built into a question. The first step in answering that is to verify the reality of that assumption: Has Obamacare actually caused an increase in part-time employment?

As you can see in the black line below, the number of part time workers spiked because of the Great Recession. It peaked and began to slowly reverse before the ACA was even passed. No, there does not appear to be an increase caused by Obamacare.


click for ginormous chart
max chart
Source: Economic Policy Institute



Funny how these memes gain traction.

Since I have repeated myself so many times, perhaps I should try phrasing this somewhat differently: You better really, really enjoy your partisan politics & Fox News, because it is an incredibly expensive hobby if you are an investor.



Obamacare Isn’t Causing an Increase in Part-Time Employment, In One Chart
Max B. Sawicky
Economic Policy Institute October 3, 2013

Category: Digital Media, Employment, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

37 Responses to “Did Obamacare Cause an Increase in Part-Time Employment?”

  1. Moss says:

    Too bad it is NOT simply a hobby, more like a religion. I guess what Disney is doing will not get noticed.


  2. capitalistic says:

    Unfortunately, people still cling to ideological theories versus factual data.

    Great chart.

  3. Kathy80 says:

    While total part-time unemployment is on the decline, that does not mean Obamacare isn’t having an effect on some industries.


    • Just cause its not in the data doesnt mean he’s wrong!

      Or that he cites an OpEd int he notoriously Obama hating right wing IBD.


    • VennData says:


      Please let provide us a list of your schooling so we know where NOT to send our children learn to reason, think, avoid spurious arguments rolled out by Fox News etc.

  4. zcarter says:

    I think it remains an open question. Perhaps without Obamacare, the data would have reset to the pre-Great Recession levels, and therefore Obamacare did cause an increase. Without the ability to run the science experiment where there was no ACA, it appears to me that both sides of this argument are speculating.

    • The Counter Factual is one argument worth exploring, and there are certainly nuances here.

      But the claim being examined — ACA caused a spike in Part Time workers — is false. THE GREAT RECESSION CAUSED THAT

    • VennData says:


      Don’t you mean you FEEL that it’s an open question cuz Obama’s a dagburn Kenyan Socialist?

  5. argh says:

    more details on part-time workers for 2013.

    “Based on unpublished BLS data so far this year federal employes forced to work part time because of the sequester account for over 100% of the increase in part time employment.

    So far this year private part time employment is actually some one million jobs lower than in the same 8 months of last year.”



  6. rd says:

    An alternative question that could also be asked is: How many potential retirees between 55 and 65 are still working because it is the only way to get affordable health care coverage?

    I don’t know what the answer is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is almost as big a reason as the stock and housing market crashes.

    One of our major economic issues right now is the high unemplyment fo people under age 30. If Obamacare can start to move even a small percentage of the 55-65 year cohort into retirement by looking after major health care coverage uncertainties, then that will be a real economic benefit as it opens opportunities for the millenials.

    • bigsteve says:

      I know for a fact my next door neighbor did not retire when she wanted to because her husband who has emphysema depended on her insurance she had from her school board job. She had to wait until he made sixty five and qualified for Medicare. My guess is plenty of others are in the same boat.

  7. ToddMPeters says:

    Barry- talk of health care reform and ACA started long before the latter was passed in 2010. President Obama took office in January 2009 and spent considerable time and effort on this initiative. I think this was a contributing factor even though the recession might have been the main factor. Your thoughts?

    • My thoughts are there are LOTS of things talked about — what were the odds of ACA being passed before jan 2009?

      I strongly doubt it was reflected in stock prices.

    • rd says:

      Much of the rise in part-time in employment and much of the initial momentum in cutting staff and hours had already occurred by the time Obama took office. The fact that mass job losses and hour reductions were going on in the economic background is one of the main reasons that Obama won the 2008 election instead of John McCain.

      I have found it mind-boggling the amount of mis-remembering about whose hands were actually on the steering wheel when house prices boomed and busted, the financial system almost evaporated, GDP tanked the most in decades, budget deficits skyrocketed, mass lay-offs started, and the stock market plunged. Unemployment metrics are always a lagging indicator because it usually takes a couple of quarters or more for companies to realize that the growth they projected ain’t happening and is actually now negative numbers. That is why Obama had increasing unemployment metrics in his first year, not because he managed to get Obamacare passed.

      • tdotz says:

        Not to mention a couple of rather stupid wars of choice funded off-budget (how do you do that, anyway?)
        Selective Amnesia: another product of the right wing noise machine.

    • VennData says:

      The Larry Kudlow argument! Let’s start Obama’s metrics sometime between his announcing his candidacy and his first Ramadan in office to make our graph nice.

      You GOP supporters don’t have the data on your side. So you just make it up. You’re goofy people. Why do you hate the facts?

  8. [...] Source: Did Obamacare Cause an Increase in Part-Time Employment (The Big Picture) [...]

  9. Frilton Miedman says:

    Given the absurdly deceptive nature of Ted Cruz’s assertion, it arouses the question of why any Democratically elected representative would lie in such brazen opposition to the best interests of his constituents.

    Just another example of money in politics – bribery is not free speech.

  10. Pacioli says:

    Ahhh, a classic bit of selection bias – the decision to propagate this chart, even though when you follow the link over to the site, a commenter has rightly pointed out that this is NOT the correct way to measure the number of part-time workers.

    • Sorry Walter, but 1) the increase in Unemployment goes back to 2007, long before 30 hours was an issue; and b) if you have another chart showing what you claim, send me a link, I am happy to post it versus this one; iii) that is not what confirmation bias is.

      • Pacioli says:

        1) Here is a pretty well-reasoned response. http://goo.gl/YebmJm

        2) The links are plainly supplied in the comments at the EPI link cited in your entry.

        3) I said nothing in my comment about confirmation bias. Freudian slip?

      • Yeah, I was pushing back against the “ACA caused all of the part time work” meme, and I over-generalized and imprecise.

        Let me gather together a longer response

  11. Joe says:

    Time is on the side of the individuals who value facts over faith. But it can make for an annoying decade/century/millenia as the faith lives on and only gradually fades away without any objective support.

  12. ilsm says:

    Thanks for picking apart the faulty logic.

    “A witty saying proves nothing.” –Voltaire

  13. b_thunder says:

    Most “employers” did not even consider ACA (aka Obamacare) in their business plans until it was “confirmed” by the Supreme Court in mid-2012. In addition, a significant portion of the business (by the employee headcount) them got 1 year “reprieve.” Moreover, the ACA itself and a number of ACA rules have not been yet set in stone, so it’s doubtful that businesses have finalized their staffing changes for the future.
    I simply do not think we can use 2010-2012 data to predict the impact of ACA on forcing full-time employees into part-time employment.

  14. DeDude says:

    Now even if it was true (and it’s not); are we supposed to think it is a bad thing if the available work (which is way short of what is needed) was shared between more people – leaving fewer people completely without work (and income)?

    • Frilton Miedman says:

      One interpretation is the fruition of Keynes predicted 15 hr work week by about 2030.

      Between technology, robotics, automation, & globalization, labor demand is going to continue to diminish, with it, political posturing via deception will also probably increase.

  15. BennyProfane says:

    What’s even worse is the deficit argument. So many are convinced that the deficit rose so quickly due to spending, when it was really the loss of revenue from the recession, and those Fox viewers think the deficit is still going up at the same rate, when it’s actually been dropping. Of course, if they have their way, we will have a much lower deficit in a year or two if you can’t get any sort of service from the Federal government, which is the danger of this shutdown. They may like the immediate results so much, thet’ll keep on doing this over and over.

  16. allyssa says:

    I would like to share some experience since I’m from Taiwan, a country which mainstream health care system is owned by the government.

    Every citizen and valid resident in Taiwan is covered by the national health care without ANY exception. All employers including small business have to pay for their employees (and temp workers). At the first beginning in 1995, Gov got lots of complaints stating employers would fire regular employees or close their companies. Well, 18 years has passed, I can tell you there’s no direct link to each others. The only reason for more part-time jobs is because of economics and globalization.

    Set up a health care system covering every citizen is a Right Thing. Nowadays, many countries even China offer similar a health care plan to all their citizens.

    • bigsteve says:

      Living in Central Florida I meet people on and off the job from all over the world. I often ask about their health care systems back home. Truth be told none of them had the horror stories you hear from a certain segment of our media. And none of them wanted to exchange their system for ours. Many of them had lived in our country for years and knew both systems well. What really burns my tail was the feeling that many of them felt sorry for us. What true blooded American wants that? So Allyssa you are not an out liner but the norm.

  17. ComradeAnon says:

    Well Barry, I imagine that “reader” is now on Fox News or Townhall or Breitbart posting how much you’re a typical librul. He probably watches CNBC for investment advice.

  18. intlacct says:

    Another Mauldin canard down the crapper…

  19. Livermore Shimervore says:

    You can argue pro or against Obamacare all day long. At the end of the day its still largely a Republican/Conservative invention that was picked up by Obama as a pragmatic middle ground. JIm Demint the Tea Party Supremo Numero Uno praised mandates and exchanges (essentially the core of what Obamacare is).
    But the bigger point is that Obamacare and the Republican’s non-existent (for nearly 20 years now) solution to healthcare reform are both doomed without a genuine market for healthcare. Ultimately Medicare beneficiaries will need to have their cut payed directly to them as either an option to consume it or move into their IRAs. They pocket what they choose not to spend, they negotiate prices with healthcare providers. And those covered by private insurance have to follow suit, their employers need to stop paying their premiums and simply increase their salaries to cover the cost. This way they choose between having a procedure (whose cost they directly negotiate just like a car repair) or simply choose to invest the money from their employer towards their own savings. Unless we pit healthcare consumption against the need to save for retirement (or consume during retirment) then cost inflation will erase any of Obamacare’s cost projections. A market based on borrowed money (real estate) or free money (Medicare) will never get a handle on stable pricing. It will be exposed to huge spikes in speculation, huge spikes in demand, huge spikes in waste. A market can only exist if the buyer feels the pain of getting a bad price.

  20. [...] Shedlock takes me to task for or discussion on ACA/Part time Jobs: Did Obamacare Cause an Increase in Part-Time Employment?  which led to this response Measuring What Didn’t Happen: Did Obamacare Cause an Increase in [...]