The American Workweek Is Getting Shorter

By: Anneken Tappe · February 23, 2024 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Waning Workweek

For proponents of the four-day workweek, ADP had some good news this week. The average American workweek is indeed getting shorter. But as so often, it’s not quite that simple.

At the end of 2019, the median number of hours worked per week was 38.4. By the end of 2023, that figure fell nearly 2% to 37.7 hours. This might not sound like a big change, but it’s significant enough given it’s based on the average.

Who Is Working Less?

This change has been particularly pronounced in certain demographics and industries.

Women who are paid by the hour, for example, are working an hour less on average than they did before the pandemic. The gender-gap to men paid by the hour has widened to 5.4 hours per week. Part-time work is already dominated by women, who account for more than half of all part-time hourly paid jobs. Care responsibilities are one reason women may end up in part-time employment scenarios.

Another group working less is adults under 35. They are also working one hour less on average now than in 2019, while older employees work roughly the same hours.

The differences continue across industries. IT, natural resources and mining, and leisure and hospitality have experienced the biggest declines in hours worked. And workers at smaller companies with fewer than 250 employees have logged fewer total hours than those at larger corporations.

Possible Explanations

The U.S. labor market has gone through tremendous change over the past years. Many workers have seen pay increases as employers tried to attract and retain workers. The majority of employees working fewer hours today have also seen their hourly wage increase annually, per ADP.

Then there’s the gig economy and the desire for flexibility that play a likely role as well. Finally, there are care concerns that might lead workers to reduce their hours, or company decisions to cut hours to limit layoffs. No matter the reason, the trend is persistent across several groups, according to ADP.

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