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February 2000, Vol. 123, No. 2
Analyzing the recent upward surge in overtime hoursRon L. Hetrick
From March 1991, the end of the last recession, to early 1997, average weekly overtime in manufacturing increased by 1.6 hours, reaching its highest level—4.9 hours—since BLS began publishing the series in 1956.1 Overtime remained at or near this high level over the next year, retreating slightly by the end of 1998. These data are from the BLS Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, a monthly survey of payroll, hours, and earnings collected from a sample of more than 400,000 of the Nation’s employers. The CES program defines overtime as hours for which premiums were paid because they exceeded the number of straight-time workday or workweek hours. Average overtime is computed by dividing the total number of overtime hours in a given industry by the number of production workers in that industry, including those that work no overtime at all.
Historically, average overtime has increased with recoveries and fallen with recessions, with the level never exceeding 4.1 hours. Average overtime fell from 3.7 to 3.3 hours during the 1990-91 recession, but the current expansion has seen overtime reach an unprecendented level. This article analyzes the striking growth in overtime from March 1991 to January 1998 and its relationship to employment.
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 2000 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 The "official" starting and ending dates of recessions and expansions are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)—a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. NBER identifies economic turning points—that is, dates when economic activity turned in the opposite direction. For more information, see NBER's website, on the Internet at http://www.nber.org/, accessed February 2000.
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