Fox News ignored a wealth of data from economists to baselessly speculate that President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) is fueling part-time job growth.
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' Your World, Fox Business' Elizabeth MacDonald noted the rise in part-time employment in the U.S. economy, claiming, “now along with the recession, companies are increasingly blaming the health reform law for the rise in part-time work. We're hearing that from retail stores like Dunkin Donuts, Wendy's, and the store Forever 21.”
Host Neil Cavuto then brought on Steve Forbes to speculate whether the ACA is causing businesses to shift to part-time workers. Forbes claimed that the law is causing business to put people who want to work “full time into part-time jobs.”
During Cavuto's exchanges with MacDonald and Forbes, the following chyrons ran on-screen:
But Fox's fearmongering over the ACA's effects on part-time work (even erroneously citing Forever 21's decision to increase part-time work as a result) is pure speculation, and virtually all evidence suggests that the law's impact on the labor market is either negligible or non-existent.
As more data come in, the law's impact can't be seen in hiring statistics, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.
“I was expecting to see it. I was looking for it, and it's not there,'' says Zandi, whose firm manages ADP's surveys of overall private-sector job creation. If the Affordable Care Act ” were causing a drop, you would see meaningful slowing.''
Zandi is not alone in his analysis. Economists Jared Bernstein and Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, looking at the share of involuntary part-time workers, came to a similar conclusion:
If the ACA's employer mandate were distorting hiring practices in the way critics claim, we'd expect the share of involuntary part-timers to be growing. Instead, it is down about one percentage point off of its peak.
Studying the effect of the ACA on part-time work using average weekly hours data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Helene Jorgensen and Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research also found similar results:
An analysis of data from the Current Population Survey shows that only a small number (0.6 percent of the workforce) of workers report working just below the 30 hour cutoff in the range of 26-29 hours per week. Furthermore, the number of workers who fall in this category was actually lower in 2013 than in 2012, the year before the sanctions would have applied. This suggests that employers do not appear to be changing hours in large numbers in response to the sanctions in the ACA.
By multiple measures and ways of parsing employment data, economists cannot seem to find any effect of the ACA on part-time work. Furthermore, while MacDonald claimed that the trend in part-time work is accelerating, part-time employment is actually down from its recession peak.
If Fox was actually concerned about part-time work in the U.S., perhaps it should join the chorus of economists who advocate for additional government spending to aid an ailing labor market.