Part time employment is booming

Working part time and not by choice, LNU02032196, black line, Total size of labour force, PAYEMS, blue line, thousands of persons, monthly, May 2003 to May 2013

There has been lots of media speculation regarding the impact of the Affordable Care Act (aka, “Obamacare”) and employment in The United States. Specifically, the law requires businesses employing more than 50 people to offer full time employees healthcare. Many worry that businesses will cut staff or cut staff hours or, perhaps both.

To this end I thought I’d take a look at employment trends in The United States. The chart above tracks individuals who are working part time (i.e., less than 34 hours a week, LNU02032196, black line) compared with the total size of the labour force (PAYEMS, blue line), with each series measuring thousands of persons and captured monthly for the period May 2003 to May 2013. The Great Recession is indicated by the vertical grey bar

A few observations: first, while the labour force is clearly recovering from The Great Recession, we’re still roughly at employment levels last seen in 2006. But as employment has been increasing so has part time employment. Before the Great Recession started in December, 2007 on average 0.96% of the labour force were forced to work part time. After the Great Recession ended in June 2009 an average 1.84% were forced into part time work.

So while the trend precedes the Affordable Care Act, this legislation is unlikely to improve the situation.

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