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Beige Book Says Obamacare Is Costing Jobs and Sales

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with his Cabinet at the White House March 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama and Congress remain locked in stalled budget negotiations as the effect of the sequestration begin to impact the U.S. economy.
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U.S. President Barack Obama meets with his Cabinet at the White House March 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama and Congress remain locked in stalled budget negotiations as the effect of the sequestration begin to impact the U.S. economy.

The Affordable Care Act is cited five times in the Federal Reserve's latest Beige Book. One of those citations notes that the law will likely drive up demand for health care services. The other four describe the health care reform as hurting employment and sales.

The notion that Obamacare, as the law is popularly known, would be a jobs killer was widely denied by its supporters. A report from the Annenberg Public Policy Center accused Republican critics of misrepresenting facts when the bill would hurt employment. It citied "non-partisan experts" who said the law would have little or no effect on employment.

When the Congressional Budget Office examined the law's impact on jobs, it saw only mildly negative employment effects arising from early retirement and allowing the poor to work fewer hours to meet their needs. The CBO didn't think that employers would slow down hiring because of the law.

But that's exactly what appears to be happening.

The Beige Book, which paints a picture of the economy by drawing on the contacts maintained by regional Fed banks with their local business communities, was prepared this time around by the Kansas City Federal Reserve. It's not usually considered to have any partisan tilt, although obviously the views it reports are those of the business sector (rather than, say, the labor unions).

"Employers in several Districts cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff," the report says.

The Richmond Fed reports that employers in its area continued to point to the Affordable Care Act as "reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff."

The Dallas Fed contacts "noted concern that client companies are hiring the absolute minimum to get by due to uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act."

It's not just hiring that is being hurt by Obamacare, according to the Beige Book. Sales are also.

"Many District contacts commented on the expired payroll tax holiday and the Affordable Care Act as having restrained sales growth," the report says.

As I mentioned, it's not all bad news related to Obamacare. The San Francisco Fed reports that contacts project a rising demand for health care services due to the law.


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