Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Is the New Friday

Thank God it’s Thursday!

Well, that’s what you might say if you’re an average worker. For years, the average work week was more than 40 hours. It has been falling, though, and in the current recession, it has fallen to a surprisingly low level of 33 hours per week. That means an average worker is one who works four days a week, rather than the traditional five.

It’s not really that people are working four days a week. There are those who work only two days a week, and they bring the average down. If someone works two days a week at each of two jobs, they really bring the average down, because they’re counted twice — the labor statistics don’t have a way of bringing a worker’s two jobs together. On the other hand, millions of workers who previously worked five days a week are now working just four as the result of employer cutbacks. Others work four days a week, but work longer hours, as employers seek to cut their employees’ commuting costs.

Still, less than half of workers are working the traditional 40-hour Monday to Friday workweek or an approximation of it. This is a cultural transition point about as significant as learning, around 1980, that less than half of children live in a household with both of their parents. Societal institutions are still built around that norm, but it is not the common situation anymore.