February Jobs Report Showed Decreased Hours Worked

Everyone cheered when the February jobs report came out showing 175,000 new jobs created. That is really a pretty paltry number, unless you compare it to January, which everyone did and said it shows an improving economy. But does it? Writing in The Wall Street Journal Edward Lazear points out how if you examine the report you’ll find that workers’ hours decreased, so it’s another sign that the economy is moving in the wrong direction.

Most commentators viewed the February jobs report released on March 7 as good news, indicating that the labor market is on a favorable growth path. A more careful reading shows that employment actually fell—as it has in four out of the past six months and in more than one-third of the months during the past two years.

Although it is often overlooked, a key statistic for understanding the labor market is the length of the average workweek. Small changes in the average workweek imply large changes in total hours worked. The average workweek in the U.S. has fallen to 34.2 hours in February from 34.5 hours in September 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That decline, coupled with mediocre job creation, implies that the total hours of employment have decreased over the period.

Read the whole thing. The decline in labor hours can’t be blamed on a rounding effect, because it’s been going on for months. It can’t be blamed on the weather because the numbers are already seasonally adjusted. So, what is to blame? Could it be Obamacare? Nothing else makes sense.