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In Today’s News

Biggs and Richwine examine the American Time Use Survey to find that:

What we found was that during a typical workweek, private-sector employees work about 41.4 hours. Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours, and state and local government employees work 38.1 hours. In a calendar year, private-sector employees work the equivalent of 3.8 more 40-hour workweeks than federal employees and 4.7 more weeks than state and local government workers. Put another way, private employees spend around an extra month working each year compared with public employees. If the public sector worked that additional month, governments could theoretically save around $130 billion in annual labor costs without reducing services.

We’ve excluded teachers from the full-year comparison because of their naturally shorter work year. But could public-private differences in work time be due to other occupational differences between the sectors? Large differences in work hours actually persist even when comparing workers with similar jobs and similar skills in each sector.

And this made me laugh:

3 Responses to “In Today’s News”

  1. sherlock says:

    I know quite a few people that would use this to show that private companies “exploit” their workers…

  2. chuck martel says:

    In general, confrontations between management and labor can be engaged in three ways, first, the employers can lock out the employees, as the NHL has done with its players, second, the employees themselves can withhold services with a strike. The third option is the most seldom used because it causes the most consternation, working to rule. When labor threatens to work to rule, ie. follow all governmental regulations, contractual stipulations and, most importantly, employer work rules, management freaks out because in that instance the employees are being paid at the normal rate for inevitably greatly decreased productivity. Management would prefer that labor actually go on strike.

    Government employees, on the other hand, ALWAYS work to rule, as you may have noticed if you’ve ever made a trip to the post office, tried to get a building permit, attempted to bail a relative out of jail or dealt with the IRS.

  3. Harry says:

    This is a hugely complex subject for me, WC, having put in a lot of hours myself on the problem for money.

    Even though I take the WSJ more seriously than other publications, my habit is always to push everything through my logic filter, and to discount every word, including advertisements through the logic and analysis filter, which works imperfectly.

    I suspect that the time people do productive work is greatly overestimated no matter where you go. Some companies were better organized, some less, but the rule of thumb was that everywhere one could promise a ten to thirty percent improvement in labor cost per equivalent annually. Had we been Senators, we would have multiplied these real savings by ten to exaggerate the savings for the news.

    Get me into our local government, do an analysis and project, and I could payroll costs by $130,000, roughly 45%, and our local government has once been frugal. The problem is selling the project, finding a client who cares about waste. This project could be done alone in two months or less, depending on how much proof my clients would require before pulling the trigger.

    So, yes, the opportunities are greater in government to get people working more often, not harder. And those kids who put together the piece in the WSJ did a good job, and they are on the right track.

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