The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will make the labor supply, measured as the total compensation paid to workers, 0.86 percent smaller in 2025 than it would have been in the absence of that law, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. Three-quarters of that decline will occur because of health insurance expansions, which raise effective tax rates on earnings from labor—for instance, by phasing out health insurance subsidies as people’s income rises—and thus reduce the amount of labor that workers choose to supply. The labor force is projected to be about 2 million full-time-equivalent workers smaller in 2025 under the ACA than it would have been otherwise. Those estimates were based mainly on CBO’s calculations of the effects of the law’s major components on marginal and average tax rates and on the agency’s analysis of research about the change in the labor supply resulting from a change in tax rates. For components of the law that were difficult to express in terms of changes in tax rates, CBO based its estimates on a review of the available literature about similar policy changes.
Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.
After a frustratingly slow recovery from the severe recession of 2007 to 2009, the economy will grow at a solid pace in 2014 and for the next few years, CBO projects. Real GDP (output adjusted to remove the effects of inflation) is expected to increase by roughly 3 percent between the fourth quarter of 2013 and the fourth quarter of 2014—the largest rise in nearly a decade. Similar annual growth rates are projected through 2017. Nevertheless, CBO estimates that the economy will continue to have considerable unused labor and capital resources (or “slack”) for the next few years. Although the unemployment rate is expected to decline, CBO projects that it will remain above 6.0 percent until late 2016. Moreover, the rate of participation in the labor force—which has been pushed down by the unusually large number of people who have decided not to look for work because of a lack of job opportunities—is projected to move only slowly back toward what it would be without the cyclical weakness in the economy.