from Edward Lazear at the Wall Street Journal The Hidden Rot in the Jobs Numbers:
Although it is often overlooked, a key statistic for understanding the labor market is the length of the average workweek. Small changes in the average workweek imply large changes in total hours worked. The average workweek in the U.S. has fallen to 34.2 hours in February from 34.5 hours in September 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That decline, coupled with mediocre job creation, implies that the total hours of employment have decreased over the period.
Another possibility for the declining average workweek is the Affordable Care Act. That law induces businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees—full-time defined as 30 hours per week—to keep the number of hours low to avoid having to provide health insurance. The jury is still out on this explanation, but research by Luis Garicano, Claire LeLarge and John Van Reenen (National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2013) has shown that laws that can be evaded by keeping firms small or hours low can have significant effects on employment.
To get a complete picture of the job market one must consider the unemployment rate, the percent of eligible workers employed and the number of hours worked. There are other factors such as underemployment and those that work off the grid to avoid taxes.
I believe the ACA is a great factor in this trend and predicted so in this blog on Aug 23, 2010 here:
Employers with a large base of low wage employees will be hit the hardest, but their employees will suffer the most as many employers will find no other choice but to cut their hours to under 30 hours a week to avoid the burden on ‘full time’ workers. Any business start-up requiring low wage employees will be thoroughly discouraged by their accounting and legal advisers.
Investment firms, accounting and legal offices, and firms with mostly higher wage employees will suffer very little and will avoid most of the burdens of this bill.
This bill is an abomination. It will hurt the lowest income the most and will delay any serious recovery in employment until it is repealed.