The Wreckovery Continues: Obamacare Putting a Damper on Hiring

The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.6% from 7.5% in May. The economy continues to produce jobs at a way-too-slow-for-recovery pace.

The U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in May, according to the Department of Labor. Hiring at that rate isn’t terrible, but it’s unexceptional at this point. It marks a slight improvement from April, when a revised 149,000 jobs were created, but still falls in line with average job growth over the last three years.

Economists called it “lackluster,” “par for the course,” and “unremarkable.”

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The U.S. labor market continues to recover. All in, the May report was decent but not fabulous,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets.

Revisions to March and April figures show that the economy added 12,000 fewer jobs than originally reported during those months.

Even so, the May report was slightly stronger than investors had expected, and stocks headed higher in morning trading. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had expected the report to show 158,000 jobs were added in May.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.6% from 7.5% in April. That minor rise came as 420,000 people joined the labor force — an encouraging sign that some formerly discouraged workers may be re-starting their job searches.

What’s keeping hiring at a ho-hum pace?

Businesses are citing concerns about the cost of health care reform rules, set to go into effect next year, as a major unknown keeping them on the edge.

“Fear of not knowing exactly what the rules are is holding hiring back,” said John Silvia, Wells Fargo chief economist. “Once everybody knows the rules, they’ll all want to play the game.”

They’ll all want to “play the game”, all right: the one where they put as many people working part-time as possible, so they can avoid paying for their health insurance. Lots of people have already fallen victim to this tactic, as business prepare to absorb the shock of Obamacare.

The unemployment rate might not be the one we should be looking at to get a real indication of how the economy’s doing. The number of people actually working is hovering near a 30-year low, as millions have dropped out of the workforce altogether.

Overall, the U.S. economy lost 8.7 million jobs in the financial crisis, and has since gained back 6.3 million jobs. The employment-population ratio was unchanged, showing that 58.6% of adults over age 16 have a job. That rate has barely budged over the last three years — and the last time it was hovering so low was 30 years ago.

And why not? Obama’s doing everything he can to build up the dependent class: you can see that in the number of people who run out of unemployment benefits and just transition to disability. The number of folks on disability climbed to an all-time high last month.

via May jobs report: Cautious hiring continues – Jun. 7, 2013.

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1 comment
  1. MulroyBay said:

    It is easy and tempting for conservatives to blame Obamacare, just as it is easy for Liberals to blame the equity-fueled meltdown for slow growth numbers. The real problem is deeper and more intractable- the productivity-driven change in a globally-connected economy.

    Labor- even knowledge work like programming and engineering- has become increasingly commoditized. At the same time companies are able to do more with less, shifting profits to owners and investors. The middle class/high school education-based jobs (steelwork and other manufacture) of the past are disappearing, replaced by low-paying service jobs. Actually there is as much manufacturing as ever going on in the US, albeit with a much lower headcount.

    Note that the story only said “uncertainty.” With the House Republicans banging their head impotently against the wall, and some states balking at implementation, that uncertainty is manufactured for political effect. What will be the effect of having some kind of universal coverage? Will it really be less efficient than the crazy system we have now- where costs for the uninsured are ridiculously high but then again go unpaid? I guess we are going to find out.

    The obvious, globally-competitively aware answer is that employers should not be in the healthcare business. Then again, this country is one of the few where healthcare IS a business.

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