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Q: Historical Average US Work Week ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Historical Average US Work Week
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: cls3277-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 14 Apr 2006 11:11 PDT
Expires: 14 May 2006 11:11 PDT
Question ID: 718905
I would like to find data on the average US work week from 1900 to the
present.  Ideally it would be every year, but every 10 or 20 years
would also suffice.  The only data I could find was the data back to
1976 on the Bureau of Labor web-site operated by the government.
Subject: Re: Historical Average US Work Week
Answered By: alanna-ga on 14 Apr 2006 14:49 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi  cis3277-ga,

You have an interesting question, and I enjoyed researching it.  I
always wondered myself how much the average workweek has changed over
the years.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives an idea of how much.
 It reports that the average workweek (manufacturing) has declined a
whopping 11 hours: from 53 in 1900 to 42 in 1999. ( ).  I know you are
interested in the year to year data, so here's what I've found.

You have some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and BLS data
are most used in other scholarly works on the subject;  I believe they
are the most reliable.   So let's begin with:

1. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

This site gives workweek statistics from 1994 to 2006.  Unfortunately,
they are listed by month.  However, the hours worked (production or
nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls; and manufacturing)
do not change that much month to month within a year.  I chose a
representative month of June and got the following figures for nonfarm
and manufacturing weekly hours:

Month                nonfarm           farm           url (below each entry)

June 2005             33.7	        40.4 

June 2004             33.6              40.8

June 2003             33.7              40.2

June 2002	      34.3               41.1

June 2001             34.3               40.7

June 2000	      34.5               41.6

June 1999	      34.5               41.7

June 1998             34.6               41.8

June 1997             34.7               41.9

June 1996             34.3               40.9

June 1995             34.7               41.5

June 1994             34.6               42.0 

Now to mix apples and oranges (a little bit).  Missing months can be
garnered from three non-government papers.

(1) The hours people work

Open the pdf file, which has a chart A on page 8 showing the decline
of working hours in manufacturing jobs from 1900 to 1981.  They ranged
down from about 57 to less than 40. The chart is in graph form.  The
actual numbers used for the chart are not given.  There is, however, a
set of numbers in Table 1 on page 9.  You will see that there are
weekly hours for the years 1976, 1981, 1984, 1989, and 1993.  The data
in Table 1 seem to be the same as in Chart 1 (adult men).

The reference for this information is Reid, F. "Reductions in work
time: An assessment of employment sharing to reduce
unemployment." In Work and Pay: The Canadian Labour Market, edited by
W. C. Riddell, 141-169. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.)

(2) Encyclopedia

See Table 2 (about 1/8-way down the page) which shows the average work
week from 1900 to 1988, citing three sources.  In that period, the
range was from near 60 to near 40.  There are citations at the  bottom
of the table (and the end of the article) in case you want to go to
the original sources.  Also see: Kniesner, Thomas J. "The Full-Time
Work Week in the United States, 1900 ? 1970," Industrial and Labor
Relations Review, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Oct., 1976) , pp. 3-15

The first page of this article can be viewed at:

(3) Chapter 2 Work

This pdf file has a graph on page 14 which plots the work week
(manufacturing) of every year of the 20th Century.  Unfortunately the
raw data are not given for every year.  However, an explanation of the
data is given in the chapter "Daily and weekly work hours declined
until World War II, but annual work hours continued to decline
moderately throughout the century"  on page 13.

I believe that using all the sources I have given you, you can piece
together the statistics that you need from 1900 to the present.
Perhaps you will want to view the book sources in the library.  They
are not yet available at Google Books.

In closing, I'd  like to give you the url for the Adobe Acrobat Reader
just in case you do not have it installed.  It is a free download.

Good luck with your research.


Clarification of Answer by alanna-ga on 14 Apr 2006 15:06 PDT
Hi again, I forgot to tell you my search strategy AND I belatedly
found another BLS source.

Google search strategy:

search terms:
average work week statistics 1900: 

average work week statistics 1900 2000

workweek statistics

This just in: 

Issues in Labor Statistics/How Long is the Workweek?

The above gives numbers for 1976 and 1993
cls3277-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
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