NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Trend to Longer Work Hours Leveling Off

January 19, 2000

Since the late 1980s, American managers and professionals have been putting in progressively longer hours on the job. But new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that trend may have plateaued.

  • In all occupations, the share of people working more than 49 hours a week rose significantly in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Back then, 29.5 percent of the highest paid workers -- managers and professional people -- logged marathon workweeks, compared with about 24 percent in the early 1980s.
  • But data suggest that for the past several years the proportion of managers and professionals working 49-plus hours a week has fallen to about 27.9 percent.
  • Yet at the same time U.S. workers are taking fewer and shorter vacations -- so they are actually working more hours on an annual basis.

One reason for the decline in weekly hours worked is the aging of the workforce. Its median age has risen nearly 10 percent in the past 15 years -- to 39.1 years from 35.7. Workers age 25 to 54 typically work the longest hours -- and the oldest members of the baby-boom generation are moving out of that age group.

Source: Sue Shellenbarger, "The American Way of Work (More!) May Be Easing Up," Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2000.

 

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