NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

Todd Neumann, Jason Taylor, Price Fishback

NBER Working Paper No. 18816
Issued in February 2013
NBER Program(s):   DAE

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18816

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