Internet rumors of massive job layoffs unfounded, economists say

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SALT LAKE CITY — On the Internet Friday, an eruption of claims that widespread job layoffs were due to President Barack Obama's re-election and his signature health care program.

But are the layoffs really happening or is it just a post-election legend? According to a slew of tweets on Twitter, Obama's re-election triggered a one-man recession with job layoffs right and left. But the other side says those claims are ridiculous.

Some Employers claim that they were "forced unwillingly to fire employees in order to survive a second Obama term."

But an Obamacare supporter at the Utah Health Policy Project says it all reminds him of Chicken Little who spreads the word the sky is falling.

"And creates a huge panic because an acorn fell on his head," said Jason Cook.

Cooke said there's no evidence of massive layoffs.

"But, in fact, all of the reliable estimates suggest there's going to be growth in employment in the health sector," Cooke said.

There is one layoff in Utah we know is happening: Coal-mine owner Bob Murray announced he's cutting 102 jobs. Murray's opposition has pointed out Murray has frequently cut jobs around the holidays. True or not, he placed the blame on Obama.

Certainly the markets are down, they're down considerably. But I don't see any burst of layoffs off-hand.

–John Watkins, economist

Murray is now being mentioned all over the Internet as the primary proof for these claims from those who oppose Obama.

The Tea Party released a list of companies planning big layoffs, but it appears many were planning such moves long before the election.

"Certainly the markets are down, they're down considerably. But I don't see any burst of layoffs off-hand," said Westminster College Professor of Economics John Watkins.

Watkins says the biggest problem now is uncertainty which has dragged down corporate investment to the lowest levels in 50 years. It's a global phenomenon, he says, largely outside Obama's control. He does worry the so-called "fiscal cliff" looming in Washington could trigger big tax hikes and deep spending cuts. He blames both parties for setting up a budget situation that could lead to a recession.

"So they really need to address this issue of the fiscal cliff. But this notion of blaming Obama, it doesn't make sense," Watkins said.

He believes Obamacare might actually benefit some businesses, but he agrees there could be job cuts at others.

"There could be. But i hope they'll do it based on the facts and not simply based on ideology," Watkins said.

KSL checked with a number of business leaders in Utah and found no additional evidence of post-election layoff decisions. But one leader told us it's sure to happen eventually because of a regulatory squeeze on business by Obama.


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John Hollenhorst


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