Obamacare a detriment to hiring, recovery

What’s slowing down job creation in Nevada, where the real unemployment rate — counting part-timers who would prefer full-time work, and those who’ve given up looking — averaged 20.3 percent in 2012?

One prime suspect is ObamaCare, with its mandate that employers with 50 full-time employees or more must offer health insurance — not just some high-deductible coverage for catastrophes, but a costly package including every kind of politically correct bell and whistle.

Left-leaning college professors with guaranteed government pensions and a belief that the end justifies the means may say it’s a minor problem, but the fact is that small companies with any number of employees between 25 and 100 — that’s a lot of employers — are eyeing the 50-worker ObamaCare mandate and making their desperate survival plans accordingly.

How do you think a Reno resident would fare today if he or she applied for a job at a local Jimmy John’s sandwich shop? The chain was growing in 2011. Then Timothy Wulf, a retired economics professor who owns JJ of Reno, operator of the shops in Northern Nevada, realized his staff of more than 100 put him right in the bull’s-eye for the ObamaCare mandate.

So Mr. Wulf says he began cutting workers 18 months ago — and not because business was bad. He sold one of his three stores, retrained workers to handle more duties and invested in labor-saving technologies. Automated online ordering, for example, replaced the equivalent of two full-time workers. (Where are they working now, do you suppose?) Given the number of part-timers working at any sandwich shop, Mr. Wulf managed to reduce his work force to 42 full-time equivalent workers.

So, beginning to next year, who will be able to offer a sandwich of the same size and quality for less: Mr. Wulf, or a competitor with 52 employees?

Mr. Wulf is one of the rare employers still willing to speak up. After Darden Restaurants, parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, said last fall it would sensibly cut worker hours to avoid the insurance mandate and thus hold down prices for customers, socialist advocacy groups organized boycotts. Executives said in December their honesty may have contributed to a big fall in quarterly earnings.

“Let’s face it: We’re not really out of the worst recession in my lifetime, and now we’re asking employers that may not yet have recovered financially to have another burden on them,” Michael Caparso, an employee benefits specialist with National Healthcare Access in Las Vegas, tells the Review-Journal’s Jennifer Robison. “It’s the first thing we hear from employers: ‘I’m just going to cut everyone between 30 and 40 hours down to 29 and be done with it.’ They also tell us they’re going to freeze hiring, because they don’t want to risk going over that (50-worker) threshold.”

Members of Congress say they’re puzzled why job creation is so slow, even as they threaten to raise the minimum wage, outlawing the very jobs entry-level workers need to get their foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, even as America’s entrepreneurs and business owners finally begin to learn what Rep. Nancy Pelosi meant when she said Congress had to pass ObamaCare “so we can find out what’s in it.”

We’re finding out, all right. Good and hard.