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April 2011, Vol. 134, No. 4
The decline in work hours during the 2007–09 recession
Steven Kroll is an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics. E-mail: email@example.com
Average weekly hours for employees in private industry decreased across all industries; hours were pulled down further as a result of heavy job losses in industries with above-average workweeks
The average workweek for all employees on private nonagricultural payrolls decreased by 0.9 hour during the December 2007–June 2009 recession. Aggregate weekly hours, the product of employment and average weekly hours, fell even more. Both the workweek and aggregate hours peaked 6 months prior to the business cycle, which reached its high point in June 2007. Average weekly hours bottomed out in June 2009; however, aggregate weekly hours lagged the end of the recession, with its trough not occurring until October 2009. 1 Goods-producing industries experienced steeper declines in both job loss and the average workweek than their private service-providing counterparts.
Hours data for all employees were first published in 2007, so such data cannot be used to compare the 2007–09 recession with past recessions. Hours and employment of production and nonsupervisory employees (together, production workers), who represent about 80 percent of all employees, allow historical comparisons back to 1964. As in previous recessions, in the recent recession goods-producing industries experienced steeper employment losses and sharper declines in the average weekly hours of production workers than did service-providing industries.
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1 Recessions are identified by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). For information, see “Information on Recessions and Recoveries, the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee, and related topics” (Cambridge, MA, National Bureau of Economic Research, updated daily), www.nber.org/cycles/main.html (visited Dec. 13, 2010). The data on employment, hours, and earnings used in this article are from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, a monthly survey of about 140,000 nonfarm businesses and government agencies representing about 440,000 establishments. For more information on the survey’s concepts and methodology, see BLS Handbook of Methods, chapter 2, “Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Establishment Survey” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, no date),
www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch2.pdf (visited Dec. 13, 2010). To access CES data, see “Current Employment Statistics - CES (National)” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, no date), www.bls.gov/ces/ (visited Dec. 13, 2010). Data used in this article are seasonally adjusted unless otherwise noted.
Current Employment Statistics All-employee hours and earnings for States and metropolitan areas—Mar. 2010. Within Monthly Labor Review Online: Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
New all-employee hours and earnings from the CES survey.—Mar. 2010.
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All-employee hours and earnings for States and metropolitan areas—Mar. 2010.
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