One of the lines the Republicans often used to attack Obamacare was complaining that it would lead to a massive switch to part-time work. The argument was that employers would cut all their workers to less than 30 hours a week. This would exempt them from the employer mandates in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The line “part-time nation” was a regular refrain on Fox News and other conservative news outlets.
It didn’t turn out that way. The share of workers who are employed part-time is virtually the same today as it was when the ACA was fully implemented at the start of 2014. It turns out that covered employers, those with more than 50 workers, have more important issues to consider in scheduling their workforce than avoiding the ACA requirements. Of course, since more than 90 percent of these employers already provided health care for their workers, it is not surprising that they didn’t change their behavior.
However the aggregate numbers on part-time work conceals an important shift that has largely gone unnoticed. While total part-time employment has changed little over the three years the ACA has been in effect, there has been a huge shift from involuntary part-time work to voluntary part-time work.
The number of people who report that they are working part-time involuntarily — they could not find full-time jobs — has fallen by 2.2 million since December of 2013, the last month before the ACA took full effect. By contrast, the number of people who report that they are working part-time because they have chosen to work part-time has risen by more than 2.4 million. Both parts of this picture are good news and almost certainly are attributable to the ACA.
The reason the ACA increased voluntary part-time employment is that the exchanges…