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July 02, 2004

Total Work Hours Drop

The fact that only an anemic number of jobs were created in June is getting the big headlines, but I've been tracking a different number for a while, namely whether the total aggregate work hours have expanded or contracted. More or less jobs can be a deceptive measure of the strength of the economy-- more jobs could mean more part-time jobs and less hours for existing workers, while stagnant job growth can conceal increased overtime as production ramps up.

The BLS keeps track of aggregate time worked across the economy here, while the St. Louis Fed produces a nice graph of these numbers, as shown below:

Looking at both the numbers and the graph, you can see that there had been an actual pickup in total weekly hours worked in the economy during the early part of this year, but hours worked fell back in June.

And however you cut it, the economy is generating far fewer hours of work today than it did in early 2001 when Bush was inaugurated.

Also, check out these interesting comments on the June jobs report by Philippa Dunne and Doug Henwood (who edits the Left Business Observer).

Update: More from the Washington Post on the jobs numbers:

Particularly troubling to some analysts were the June declines in both the length of the average workweek and average weekly earnings. The workweek, at 33.6 hours, seasonally adjusted, was the shortest since the department began recording the data in 1964. The workweek has touched that low before, including several months last year.

Posted by Nathan at July 2, 2004 08:33 AM