120 Monthly Lab. Rev. 3 (1997)
Trends in Hours of Work since the Mid-1970s

handle is hein.journals/month120 and id is 303 raw text is: Trends in hours of work
since the mid-1970s
Although there has been little change in the average
number of hours worked each week since
the mid-1970s, the proportion of persons working very
long workweeks has risen, and there has been
a growing trend toward year-round work among women

Philip L. Rones,
Randy E. 11g,
and Jennifer M.
Philip L. Rones is
Assistant Commissioner
for Current Employ-
ment Analysis, Bureau
of Labor Statistics.
Randy E. Ilg is an
economist in the
Division of Labor Force
Statistics, Bureau of
Labor Statistics.
Jennifer M. Gardner is
an economist formerly
with that Division.

_     fforts to shorten and standardize the
length of the workweek were at the fore-
] front of labor market issues in the first
four decades of this century, culminating in the
enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of
1938.' After long and hard-fought legal and po-
litical battles, the act allowed for a maximum
workweek of 44 hours, which then would decline
to 40 hours in the third year after enactment. Al-
though employers still could demand longer
workweeks, hours worked beyond the legal
maximum would require time-and-a-half pay.
While workweek issues have fallen from the
fore in recent decades, they still touch upon many
key labor market topics and trends. For example,
arguably the two most dominant trends in the
post-World War II work world have been the in-
flux of women, particularly mothers, into the job
market, and the steady decline in the retirement
age. Women have increased their numbers in the
work force and shifted their work schedules to-
wards year-round, full-time employment. In ad-
dition, as work activity among older men was
declining, those left working were increasingly
likely to work part time.
Two important issues in the 1990s are worker
displacement and the quality of jobs, both of
which have workweek components. Even as the
overall U.S. employment numbers have risen
substantially, millions of jobs have been lost each
year to corporate and government restructuring.
A common perception is that those spared such
job loss, particularly those in managerial and pro-
fessional jobs, have been compelled to work
longer workweeks to protect their own positions.

As for the quality of jobs, newly created jobs of-
ten have been stereotyped (incorrectly) as part-
time, low-wage, poor-quality jobs.2
This article examines trends in hours at work
from two perspectives. First, trends in the aver-
age workweek and changes in the distribution of
hours worked since the mid-I 970s are examined.
Then, the focus is expanded to estimate annual
work hours. This figure is affected not only by
the length of the workweek, but also by the ex-
tent to which people work at all, and the number
of weeks that they work during the year. Lastly,
the appendix provides a discussion of the differ-
ences between hours data collected following the
redesign of the Current Population Survey (cps),
implemented in January 1994, and those obtained
prior to 1994. Because of the effect of those
changes on work-hour estimates, trend data in the
article are restricted to the period through 1993.3
Measuring hours of work
Estimates of the length of the workweek can be
obtained from workers themselves or from their
employers. Employer-based surveys count the to-
tal number of jobs held by workers, so average
hours calculated from those data are reported per
job, not per worker. Workers, of course, can work
at more than one job. Also, workweek estimates
from employers generally are for hours paid (in-
cluding paid annual and sick leave) rather than
actual hours worked. Another shortfall of em-
ployer-based surveys for this analysis is that they
typically lack demographic information-such as
age, gender, and education-that are critical to un-
Monthly Labor Review  April .1997  3

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