NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Not Working at Work: Loafing, Unemployment and Labor Productivity

Michael Burda, Katie R. Genadek, Daniel S. Hamermesh

NBER Working Paper No. 21923
Issued in January 2016
NBER Program(s):   LS

We use the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) 2003-12 to estimate time spent by workers in non-work while on the job. Non-work time is substantial and varies positively with the local unemployment rate. While average time spent by workers in non-work conditional on any positive amount rises with the unemployment rate, the fraction of workers reporting positive values varies pro-cyclically, declining in recessions. These results are consistent with a model in which heterogeneous workers are paid efficiency wages to refrain from loafing on the job. That model correctly predicts relationships of the incidence and conditional amounts of non-work with wage rates and measures of unemployment benefits in state data linked to the ATUS, and it is consistent with estimated occupational differences.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21923

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