Don’t use the language of “job losses” to characterize last week’s report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the workforce impact of Obamacare. That is the message of a new FAQ on the CBO site written by Doug Elmendorf, the group’s director. Here are some excerpts:
Q: Will 2.5 Million People Lose Their Jobs in 2024 Because of the ACA?
A: No, we would not describe our estimates in that way.
We wrote in the report: “CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor.” The reason for the reduction in the supply of labor is that the provisions of the ACA reduce the incentive to work for certain subsets of the population.
“Job loss,” argues Elmendorf, describes a situation in which an employer experiences declining business and is forced to lay off workers or otherwise scale back their hours. That’s a “loss” for those workers. On the other hand, people who choose to work less of their own volition “presumably think they are better off (or they would not be making the voluntary choices they are making). As a result, other people are generally happy for them and do not describe them as having ‘lost their jobs,'” writes Elmendorf.
The rebuttal of the job-loss notion is the first Q in this Q&A — perhaps CBO’s way of setting the record straight after multiple news outlets last week reported that, in the CBO’s view, Obamacare would be killing jobs in the millions. In introducing the Q&A, Elmendorf notes that the analysis of Obamacare’s impact on labor markets “has attracted a great deal of attention and raised several questions.”
That’s a nonpartisan, bean-county way of addressing massive media distortions. The Erik Wemple Blog last week sought an on-the-record interview from CBO officials on the media’s handling of the report. They declined. This is as close as we’re going to get.