The
Economy

The "40-Hour" Workweek Is Actually Longer -- by Seven Hours

by Lydia Saad

Full-time U.S. workers, on average, report working 47 hours weekly

PRINCETON, NJ -- Adults employed full time in the U.S. report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to-5 schedule entails. In fact, half of all full-time workers indicate they typically work more than 40 hours, and nearly four in 10 say they work at least 50 hours.

Average Hours Worked by Full-Time U.S. Workers, Aged 18+

The 40-hour workweek is widely regarded as the standard for full-time employment, and many federal employment laws -- including the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" -- use this threshold to define what a full-time employee is. However, barely four in 10 full-time workers in the U.S. indicate they work precisely this much. The hefty proportion who tell Gallup they typically log more than 40 hours each week push the average number of hours worked up to 47. Only 8% of full-time employees claim to work less than 40 hours.

These findings are based on data from Gallup's annual Work and Education Survey. The combined sample for 2013 and 2014 includes 1,271 adults, aged 18 and older, who are employed full time.

While for some workers the number of hours worked may be an indicator of personal gumption, for others it may be a function of their pay structure. Hourly workers can be restricted in the amount they work by employers who don't need or can't afford to pay overtime. By contrast, salaried workers generally don't face this issue. And, perhaps as a result, salaried employees work five hours more per week, on average, than full-time hourly workers (49 vs. 44, respectively), according to the 2014 Work and Education survey.

Average Hours Worked by Full-Time U.S. Workers, Aged 18+

Another factor in lengthening Americans' workweek is individuals taking on more than one job. According to past Gallup data, 86% of full-time workers have just one job, 12% have two, and 1% have three or more. However, even by restricting the analysis to full-time workers who have only one job, the average number of hours worked is 46 -- still well over 40.

Average Number of Hours Logged by Full-Time Workers Remains Steady

The amount of hours that all U.S. full-time employees say they typically work each week has held fairly steady over the past 14 years, except for a slight dip to just under 45 hours in Gallup's 2004-2005 two-year average. Part-time workers have averaged about 20 hours per week less than full-timers, although the precise figure shifts more for part-timers. This is partly due to the lower sample size of this group, resulting in greater volatility in the measure.

Average Number of Hours Worked by U.S. Workers, Aged 18+

Forty-three percent of U.S. adults in the August 2014 survey tell Gallup they are employed full time, down from about 50% in the Work and Education polls conducted each August before the 2007-2009 recession. Meanwhile, the percentage who work part time has consistently hovered near 9%.

Shifts in labor force participation can reflect a number of underlying factors in addition to the strength of the economy, including changes in the demographic composition of the population.

Bottom Line

The percentage of full-time workers in the U.S. has dwindled since the recession began in 2007, but the number of hours they say they work each week has held steady, at about 47. While four in 10 workers put in a standard 40-hour workweek, many others toil longer than that, including nearly one in five (18%) who work a grueling 60 hours or more. That translates into 12-hour days from Monday to Friday -- or into shorter weekdays with lots of time spent working on the weekends.

Salaried workers, on average, work even more, with a full 25% saying they put in at least 60 hours per week. Thus, while workers earning a salary may enjoy greater income than their counterparts who are paid hourly, they do pay a price in lost personal time.

But this doesn't necessarily mean that workers logging long hours are suffering. According to Gallup workplace management scientists Jim Harter and Sangeeta Agrawal, certain workplace polices -- including the number of hours worked -- can affect employee well-being. However, having an engaging job and workplace still trumps these factors in fostering higher overall well-being in workers. Highly engaged workers who log well over 40 hours will still have better overall well-being than actively disengaged workers who clock out at 40 hours. In other words, hours worked matters, but it's not all that matters.

Survey Methods

Results for the latest Gallup Work and Education poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 7-10, 2014, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the sample of 400 adults who work full time, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the 2013-2014 combined sample of 1,271 adults who work full time, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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