Economic Factors Prompting Increase in Part-Time Workers

May 27, 2014 ( – An increase in the number of employers shifting to part-time workers is more likely to be due to economic reasons than legislative ones.

A report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) also indicates the likely reasons for any future shift to part-timers will be due to the economy or unemployment rates.

While some are asking if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the cause for the increase in number of part-time workers, the report reveals the shift was already underway prior to the enactment of the ACA. (The ACA was signed into law in March 2010.) Between 2006 and 2010, the percentage of those working less than 30 hours a week had already increased from 11.9% to 14.1%. Similarly, the percentage of those working between 30 and 39 hours a week had increased from 11.4% to 13.2% of the work force.

The EBRI report suggests that these increases may have been due to the decrease in the unemployment rate after 2010, which went from 9.9% in 2010 to 7.9% by the end of 2012.

“Since the enactment of the ACA, the percentage of workers employed less than 40 hours a week has actually declined slightly,” explains Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Education and Research Program, as well as the author of the report. “At the same time, while both full-time and part-time workers have experienced drops in [benefits] coverage, part-time workers have been affected disproportionately.”

Fronstin also notes in the report that overall, 20 million workers were employed under 30 hours a week and 18.8 million worked between 30 and 39 hours week in 2012. Among the first group of part-time workers, 2.6 million (12.8%) had employment-based benefits coverage through their own job. Among those from the second group, 6.3 million or 33.6% had such coverage. By comparison, 60.5% of full-time workers had such coverage.

The report, “Trends in Health Coverage for Part-Time Workers, 1999-2012,” can be found in the May issue of EBRI Notes, which can be accessed at