Debate persists over how ACA has affected hiring

It’s been a big debate since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.

How is the law, which requires some employers to provide health insurance or pay a fine, affecting jobs?

Vern Steinhoff wrote in following our Oct. 17 article about the Las Vegas Valley’s unemployment rate dropping more than half a percentage point in September, to 7.1 percent.

“Figures can lie, but numbers can’t,” Steinhoff wrote. “How many full-time jobs do we have compared to two years ago or six years ago? I know many places hire part-time workers and in fact have cut the hours of full-time workers so they don’t have to pay the insurance because of Obamacare.”

That has long been a concern of Obamacare critics.

The thing is, there’s no evidence it’s happening.

First, a caveat: The employer mandate has been delayed. Companies with 50 to 99 workers don’t have to comply until 2016. Businesses with 100 or more employees have until 2015 to provide health benefits to 70 percent of their workers and until 2016 to offer coverage to 95 percent.

It’s possible we haven’t yet seen the full impact, but so far job numbers appear unaffected by the law.

Full-time jobs did tumble as part-time work soared during the recession. The number of Nevadans working full time fell by about 230,000 from 2008 to 2011, bottoming out at roughly 830,000. At the same time, the ranks of part-timers spiked by 90,000, to just more than 300,000, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey.

But those trends have reversed. Full-time employment is back up to about 975,000 Nevadans; part-time employment holds steady at around 290,000.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the state employment department, also looked at more than 60,000 unique business-establishment records filed to comply with unemployment-insurance laws. The vast majority — 56,500 — stayed either above or below the 50-employee threshold.

Also, 271 work places dropped below 50 employees, when they had been above that watermark a year earlier, which means they cut people.

But 345 work places were above the 50-worker level after falling lower a year earlier, indicating new jobs, though we should note that businesses don’t report whether new hires are full time or part time.

Still, Anderson said, evidence “suggests that the employment gains in Nevada in recent years have been heavily concentrated in full-time positions, as opposed to part-time.”

We’ll keep our eye on whether that changes as the coverage mandates loom.

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