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Fluctuations in Weekly Hours and Total Hours Worked Over the Past 90 Years and the Importance of Changes in Federal Policy Toward Job Sharing

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  • Todd Neumann
  • Jason Taylor
  • Price Fishback

Abstract

During the Great Depression of 1930s, changes in the workweek drove a larger portion of changes in total labor input than in other decades. Work-sharing policies appear to be responsible. Hoover created various work-sharing committees lead by key industrialists, which pushed for shorter workweeks and Roosevelt’s President’s Reemployment Agreement called for sharp cuts in weekly hours. The hope was to spread available work amongst more people. While between 50 and 90 percent of declines in labor input were accommodated by falling hours during these periods, in recent decades employers have primarily relied on layoffs to achieve the same end. During the Great Depression of 1930s, changes in the workweek drove a larger portion of changes in total labor input than in other decades. Work-sharing policies appear to be responsible. Hoover created various work-sharing committees lead by key industrialists, which pushed for shorter workweeks and Roosevelt’s President’s Reemployment Agreement called for sharp cuts in weekly hours. The hope was to spread available work amongst more people. While between 50 and 90 percent of declines in labor input were accommodated by falling hours during these periods, in recent decades employers have primarily relied on layoffs to achieve the same end.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18816.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18816

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  1. Rose, Jonathan D., 2010. "Hoover's Truce: Wage Rigidity in the Onset of the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(04), pages 843-870, December.
  2. Seltzer, Andrew J., 1997. "The Effects of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 on the Southern Seamless Hosiery and Lumber Industries," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(02), pages 396-415, June.
  3. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "New Deal policies and the persistence of the Great Depression: a general equilibrium analysis," Working Papers 597, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Jason E. Taylor, 2011. "Work‐sharing During the Great Depression: Did the ‘President's Reemployment Agreement’ Promote Reemployment?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 78(309), pages 133-158, January.
  5. Kathryn Koenders & Richard Rogerson, 2005. "Organizational dynamics over the business cycle: a view on jobless recoveries," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 555-580.
  6. Baily, Martin Neil, 1977. "On the Theory of Layoffs and Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(5), pages 1043-63, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Richard B. Freeman, 2013. "Failing the Test? The Flexible U.S. Job Market in the Great Recession," NBER Working Papers 19587, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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