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Why Do BLS Hours Series Tell Different Stories About Trends in Hours Worked?

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Author Info

  • Frazis, Harley

    ()
    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Stewart, Jay

    ()
    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Abstract

Hours worked is an important economic indicator. In addition to being a measure of labor utilization, average weekly hours are inputs into measures of productivity and hourly wages, which are two key economic indicators. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' two hours series tell very different stories. Between 1973 and 2007 average weekly hours estimated from the BLS's household survey (the Current Population Survey or CPS) indicate that average weekly hours of nonagricultural wage and salary workers decreased slightly from 39.5 to 39.3. In contrast, average hours estimated from the establishment survey (the Current Employment Statistics survey or CES) indicate that hours fell from 36.9 to 33.8 hours per week. Thus the discrepancy between the two surveys increased from about two-and-a-half hours per week to about five-and-a-half hours. Our goal in the current study is to reconcile the differences between the CPS and CES estimates of hours worked and to better understand what these surveys are measuring. We examine a number of possible explanations for the divergence of the two series: differences in workers covered, multiple jobholding, differences in the hours concept (hours worked vs. hours paid), possible overreporting of hours in CPS, and changes in the length of CES pay periods. We can explain most of the difference in levels, but cannot explain the divergent trends.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4704.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Katharine G. Abraham, Michael J. Harper, and James R. Spletzer (eds.), Labor in the New Economy, NBER Studies in Income and Wealth, University of Chicago Press, 2010, 343-372
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4704

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Keywords: comparison of household and establishment surveys; hours of work;

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References

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  1. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Harley Frazis & Jay Stewart, 2005. "Data Watch: The American Time Use Survey," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 221-232, Winter.
  2. Kuhn, Peter J. & Lozano, Fernando A., 2006. "The Expanding Workweek? Understanding Trends in Long Work Hours Among U.S. Men, 1979-2004," IZA Discussion Papers 1924, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1990. "Shirking or productive schmoozing: Wages and the allocation of time at work," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(3), pages 121-133, February.
  4. James R. Spletzer & Katharine G. Abraham & Jay C. Stewart, 1999. "Why Do Different Wage Series Tell Different Stories?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 34-39, May.
  5. Katharine G. Abraham & James R. Spletzer & Jay C. Stewart, 1998. "Divergent Trends in Alternative Wage Series," NBER Chapters, in: Labor Statistics Measurement Issues, pages 293-325 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Harley Frazis & Jay Stewart, 2007. "Where Does the Time Go? Concepts and Measurement in the American Time Use Survey," NBER Chapters, in: Hard-to-Measure Goods and Services: Essays in Honor of Zvi Griliches, pages 73-97 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Loukas Karabarbounis, 2013. "The Labor Wedge: MRS vs. MPN," NBER Working Papers 19015, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Harley Frazis & Jay Stewart, 2009. "Comparing Hours per Job in the CPS and the ATUS," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 93(1), pages 191-195, August.

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