That new definition and its related requirement have given rise to a new guideline for small business survival. Known as “49 and 29,” it suggests that small firms would be very unwise to expand their operations beyond 49 full-time employees as defined by ObamaCare, or to allow part-timers to ever work more than 29 hours in a given week, lest they accidentally move into the law’s full-time category. Large companies also have an incentive to keep as many employees as possible below the 30-hour threshold.

Last Friday’s employment report – especially because the administration expressed pleasure with its results — makes you wonder if ObamaCare, among other things, wasn’t deliberately designed to force the country over the long-term to accept a work week of just under 30 hours, something we’ve always seen as part-time employment, as the “new normal” definition of a full-time worker.

Seasonally adjusted government figures for April show that the private sector added 176,000 jobs, while average total weekly hours worked dropped from 3.926 billion to 3.909 billion, a fall-off of almost 16.6 million hours. That difference, the largest since October 2009 when the economy was still losing jobs, caused the number of “full-time equivalent” jobs (i.e., total weekly hours divided by 40) to fall by a stunning 416,000.

Other evidence abounds that an already existing trend toward hiring part-time help has accelerated, while full-time work is stagnating. The economy is still almost 2.6 million jobs short of where it was at its January 2008 peak, but one area of employment has just fully recovered while reaching a seasonally adjusted all-time high of 2.66 million workers. That category would be workers at temporary help services, many (probably most) of whom are either part-timers or usually don’t put in consecutive months of full-time work. Since the recession as officially defined ended in June 2009, the economy has added 913,000 temps, a stunning 17 percent of all employment growth during that time.

Anecdotally, here are just a few of the employers who have officially or unofficially taken concrete steps to keep part-timers’ hours below 30, busted full-timers down to part-time, or both: KrogerCircle K SoutheastRegal Entertainment; the city of Long Beach, California; and the state of Virginia. Many others are taking their actions quietly to avoid leftist protests and intimidation.

At the rate things are going, it shouldn’t be too many more months before everyone will have to admit that ObamaCare’s 30-hour full-time employment definition is on track to permanently alter the nature of work and employment in America — and not for the better. Last week, even the Associated Press referred to a well-known economist who cited it as “a reason some employers are holding back” on hiring.

Is all of this really, as Democrats and their press apparatchiks want to claim, an “unintended consequence” of ObamaCare? Well, Obama himself said in 2008 that his presidential campaign was all about ”fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Why should we automatically assume that this isn’t a deliberate part of that transformation, leading to a slow but sure adoption of the radical left’s and Big Labor’s long-time dream?

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified image.)