What do you call an increase in part-time and temporary workers along with stagnant unemployment numbers? Progress, according to the White House and the broadcast networks’ evening news programs.
The networks have continued to tout the “recovering economy” while ignoring the rise in part-time employment and the connection to Obamacare. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and PBS have all linked surging part-time hiring to the president’s health care legislation, yet the broadcast networks evening shows remained silent about that in coverage since the January 2013 jobs report was released.
The networks, particularly NBC, can’t claim ignorance about it either. On the July 28 Sunday talk show “Meet the Press,” NBC anchor David Gregory quoted several of these newspapers giving an “independent assessment of what the President’s economic record has been” and pushed back against Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s defense of Obamacare.
“The reality is that most of the new jobs being created are short-term jobs, not -- part- time jobs, not full-time jobs,” Gregory said before quoting The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Obama’s record tax increases have grabbed a bigger chunk of affluent incomes but they created uncertainty for business throughout 2012 and have dampened growth so far this year."
Yet from Feb. 1, 2013 through July 26, 2013, ABC, CBS and NBC have not mentioned that link between Obamacare’s insurance regulations and a record high of temporary and part-time jobs once on the evening news shows.
July’s job report will be released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Aug. 2, 2013, and the USA Today said it is expected to show 185,000 jobs added. Whether those will be full-time or part-time jobs remains to be seen.
The connection between this labor trend and Obamacare has been widely reported, even by liberal media outlets. PBS and The New York Times have both linked the rise in part-time employment over full-time employment to business regulations from the Affordable Care Act.
The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post also explained that businesses are not hiring full-time workers and are reducing their employees’ hours to part-time this year because the Affordable Care Act requires employers with 50 plus employees to provide government-approved insurance or pay heavy fines. To avoid these fees, employers have begun taking on more part-time workers and reducing the number of full-time employees they already have. They’re also hiring more temporary workers—that number is at a record high and continuing to grow.
Part-Time Jobs Growing
On July 5, the BLS released the June jobs report which showed 195,000 new jobs, not enough to shift the unemployment rate at 7.6 percent.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog, the June report showed “more than 300,000 people were working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time jobs, which isn’t representative of a healthy job market.” The total number of part-time workers increased to a record high of 28.1 million. The Washington Examiner also reported that the number of temporary workers reached an all time high of nearly 2.7 million and that the second largest employer in the country now is a temp agency.
The networks did not highlight those records.
Even liberal media included PBS’ “Newshour,” The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times agree that job gains are just keeping pace with population growth, and the number of part-time workers looking for full-time jobs has increased dramatically. According to PBS, the numbers are worse than they were even just a year ago:
“More than 8 million Americans who were working part-time, even though they say they want a full-time job -- in addition, remember, to the 12 million officially unemployed. And if you count all part-time workers in America -- those who worked between one and 34 hours in the past week -- the total is now up above 27 million, several hundred thousand more than it was a year ago.”
White House Denies Connection between ACA and Part-Time Hiring
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has denied that increased part-time hiring is because of the Affordable Care Act. According to Carney, the two are not connected, but he did not give any other reason for the numbers either.
"I would say broadly that if you look at the economic data, the suggestion that the ACA is reducing full-time employment is belied by the facts," Carney said July 16.
But the July 2 decision by the White House to move the 2014 employer insurance mandate back to 2015 betrayed such claims. Why else would the deadline need to be moved, unless it was having a negative impact?
According to a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce July survey, nearly three-fourth of small businesses say the ACA makes it harder to hire workers and 61 percent do not plan to take on additional hires next year.
According to The New York Times Economix blogger Annie Lowrey, “The Affordable Care Act gives employers an incentive to hire part-time workers rather than full-time workers, as they might be compelled to offer health coverage to the latter, but not the former. That’s why a number of big employers have started offering more temporary or part-time positions.” Reuters reported on June 13 that Wal-Mart has already implemented a strategy of hiring more temporary workers.
The networks have assisted President Obama and his administration by ignoring the link in order to maintain the pro-Obamacare narrative and by focusing on jobs created, without looking at what sort of jobs they are. Additionally, the networks worried (like the White House) about the impact of the sequester on jobs and the economy and blamed it when hiring slowed.
On April 5, CBS “Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley asked, “With all of the uncertainty in Washington about taxes and budgets, I wonder if that’s [the Dow dropping over 100 points] part of all of this.”
Mellody Hobson, CBS News’ financial and cconomic analyst responded, “Of course, it is. There`s no question about it.”
The same day, on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” their segment on the job report featured a graphic with the words, “What’s to blame for the slowdown?” ABC correspondent Linzie Janis responded that “[T]hose $85 billion in government spending cuts, they took effect on March 1st.”
The sequester had no long-term effects on employment, since May and June numbers were back to pre-sequester levels. But the networks failed to discuss in all this time was the real concern over the shift of full-time positions to part-time and what that could mean for the economy long-term.
You Call This Recovery?
The growth of part-time workers and relatively small jobs gains each month begs the question about how the economy is recovery.
Matt Berman of The National Journal compared recession level unemployment with the current economic landscape and noted something shocking: that in June 2008 the jobs picture was much better than it is today.
“But for the U.S. economy to just get back to the recession level of 8.5 million Americans unemployed, the U.S. economy would need more than 16 months of 200,000 monthly jobs added,” Berman wrote.
In fact, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household survey 557,000 of the 753,000 jobs added in 2013 (January through June) were part-time. Hardly promising numbers for an economic recovery.
Even Mort Zuckerman of U.S. News and World Report wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal pointing out that “the longest and worst recession since the end of World War II has been marked by the weakest recovery from any U.S. recession in that same period.”