The slow destruction of the 40-hour workweek

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The slow destruction of the 40-hour workweek

By Steve Eggleston

The polit­i­cal forces that gave us the 40-​hour work­week have been work­ing at its destruc­tion for quite a while. The delayed employer health insur­ance man­date that is part of Place­bo­Care was designed to force employ­ers to cover those employ­ees who work at least 30 hours per week. Just last month, the Demo­c­rat Party of Wis­con­sin, as part of what I called the French Res­o­lu­tion, called for a 35-​hour workweek.

Ear­lier this week, they got an endorse­ment of sorts from Car­los Slim, the Mex­i­can tele­com mag­nate who, depend­ing on the mea­sure­ment, is the rich­est or second-​richest pri­vate cit­i­zen in the world. The Finan­cial Times reports that, at a busi­ness con­fer­ence in Paraguay, Slim called for a 3-​day work­week so that there would be more time to relax. The other two parts of his call, an 11-​hour work­day and a retire­ment age of 75, aren’t exactly a part of the Left’s play­book, but even with an 11-​hour work­day, that would mean only 33 hours would become the new stan­dard for a “full” workweek.

Per­haps they’re just jus­ti­fy­ing the con­tin­ued lack of full-​time jobs since the Great Reces­sion. In June 2007, there were 122,150,000 peo­ple work­ing at least 35 hours per week on a seasonally-​unadjusted basis. That num­ber dropped slightly to 121,845,000 in June 2008, fell pre­cip­i­tously to 114,014,000 in June 2009, and con­tin­ued drop­ping until it hit a mod­ern rock bot­tom of 113,856,000 in June 2011. It has recov­ered some of that since, but the 119,472,000 full-​time work­ers last month is still over 2.6 mil­lion fewer than there were in June 2007.

By con­trast, the part-​time work­force has increased dra­mat­i­cally in the Obama era. In 2007, there were 24,808,000 peo­ple work­ing fewer than 35 hours per week. That num­ber dropped by 4,000 in June 2008, but then it exploded to 26,026,000 in June 2009. It has only increased every June since, with a June record 27,631,000 peo­ple work­ing fewer than 35 hours per week last month.

If it weren’t for peo­ple work­ing mul­ti­ple part-​time jobs to, pre­sum­ably, get to at least 35 hours worked per week, that “full-​time” work­force drop would be even worse. After 5 of the pre­vi­ous 6 June mea­sures of mul­ti­ple job­hold­ers whose jobs are all part-​time bounced between 1,781,000 and 1,812,000 (with June 2009 well below that), and June 2013 see­ing 1,808,000 mul­ti­ple part-​timers, that num­ber spiked to 1,888,000 last month.

By Steve Eggleston

The political forces that gave us the 40-hour workweek have been working at its destruction for quite a while. The delayed employer health insurance mandate that is part of PlaceboCare was designed to force employers to cover those employees who work at least 30 hours per week. Just last month, the Democrat Party of Wisconsin, as part of what I called the French Resolution, called for a 35-hour workweek.

Earlier this week, they got an endorsement of sorts from Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecom magnate who, depending on the measurement, is the richest or second-richest private citizen in the world. The Financial Times reports that, at a business conference in Paraguay, Slim called for a 3-day workweek so that there would be more time to relax. The other two parts of his call, an 11-hour workday and a retirement age of 75, aren’t exactly a part of the Left’s playbook, but even with an 11-hour workday, that would mean only 33 hours would become the new standard for a “full” workweek.

Perhaps they’re just justifying the continued lack of full-time jobs since the Great Recession. In June 2007, there were 122,150,000 people working at least 35 hours per week on a seasonally-unadjusted basis. That number dropped slightly to 121,845,000 in June 2008, fell precipitously to 114,014,000 in June 2009, and continued dropping until it hit a modern rock bottom of 113,856,000 in June 2011. It has recovered some of that since, but the 119,472,000 full-time workers last month is still over 2.6 million fewer than there were in June 2007.

By contrast, the part-time workforce has increased dramatically in the Obama era. In 2007, there were 24,808,000 people working fewer than 35 hours per week. That number dropped by 4,000 in June 2008, but then it exploded to 26,026,000 in June 2009. It has only increased every June since, with a June record 27,631,000 people working fewer than 35 hours per week last month.

If it weren’t for people working multiple part-time jobs to, presumably, get to at least 35 hours worked per week, that “full-time” workforce drop would be even worse. After 5 of the previous 6 June measures of multiple jobholders whose jobs are all part-time bounced between 1,781,000 and 1,812,000 (with June 2009 well below that), and June 2013 seeing 1,808,000 multiple part-timers, that number spiked to 1,888,000 last month.