Trend is Toward Fewer Hours Not More Jobs
First, let me offer congratulations to the 165,000 families whose personal unemployment rate went from 100% to 0%, always a joyous event, both in terms of economics, as well as self-worth and esteem, during the last month!
Unfortunately, it is widely estimated that the minimum average monthly number of new jobs needed, to maintain both work force participation levels and reduce underemployment and unemployment numbers (U6 is currently in excess of 22,000,000 Americans, and the civilian work force increases by more than 200,000 a month) is 250,000! And the percentage of those employed to our total population has now shrunk to a low of 56.8%. This is a different number than the civilian work force participation rate which is now at 63.3% (the ratio of those in the work force to those that are employed and unemployed and still looking for work.) Of the 165,000 added 176,000 were in the private sector. This is also a cause for celebration, as it means government employment shrunk by 11,000!
Let’s look closer at one segment of the employment numbers, that of the food and beverage (sometimes denominated as the leisure and hospitality) industry. We were told that included within the 165,000 new jobs were 39,000 jobs in this sector – that is clearly a good thing. We were also told that included within the 165,000 new jobs were 278,000 involuntary part-time and 163,000 voluntary part-time or temporary jobs, for a total of 441,000 new part-time jobs, which in turn means that the reciprocal or 276,000 FULL-TIME JOBS WERE LOST – CLEARLY NOT A GOOD THING. Part-time is defined as all jobs less than 32 hours per week. During the past year involuntary part-time employment increased by 222,000 jobs. Another factor to consider is that the average work hours continued to fall and is now down to 34.4 hours.
If we put all of this information together with the number of total jobs existent in the food and beverage sector we can easily make an explanatory supposition that this increase is related causally to Obamacare. We know that employers in general are acting to arrange their affairs to comply, or avoid the necessity to comply, with the mandatory coverage and penalty provisions. This would naturally lead to reduced hours, less than 30 per week and additional part time employee head-counts, at the ratio of 3 to 1. In other words if an employer has 21 employees capable of part time scheduling and had previously had them working 40 hours, the employer could now provide the same hourly coverage with 28 employees working 30 hours per week.
There are 14,000,000 employees in the food and beverage sector of the labor market. If only 50% of those jobs were capable of part-time scheduling and only 50% of the employers capable of scheduling those employees were to make this calculation and take the above action, this would result in the “manufacture” of 1,112,000 additional “jobs” (all of them part-time) and the loss of 3,500,000 fulltime jobs, having the result of changing the “Job Report Top Line Unemployment Rate from 7.6% to 6.8% without doing our economy any good at all!
Perhaps that is the real intention of Obamacare: if we can just (a) encourage more employers to make their employees part-time and (b) encourage more former employees to leave the work force we can drive the Unemployment Rate down and at least claim to have a fully recovered economy, unless of course you really care about more than just having fun with numbers!
Ronald C. Lazof is the Managing Director of Prism Advisors LLC.
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