Yes, Government Employees Do Work Less Than You Do

Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to confirm what we think we’re seeing with our own eyes: Government employees work fewer hours than their private sector counterparts:

What we found was that during a typical workweek, private-sector employees work about 41.4 hours. Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours, and state and local government employees work 38.1 hours. In a calendar year, private-sector employees work the equivalent of 3.8 more 40-hour workweeks than federal employees and 4.7 more weeks than state and local government workers. Put another way, private employees spend around an extra month working each year compared with public employees. If the public sector worked that additional month, governments could theoretically save around $130 billion in annual labor costs without reducing services.

Their calculations, using the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, deliberately exclude school teachers, which would likely skew the public employee figures even further down. The numbers are useful to keep in mind when the Obama Administration talks about federal aid to states and cities to preserve their payrolls. Even with the slashing of jobs in the public sector, those who remain aren’t doing as much work as the rest of us. Biggs and Richwine conclude:

“Based on the most detailed and objective data set available, the private sector really does work more than the public sector. This fact may hold different lessons for different people, but our own take is simple: Before we ask private-sector employees to work more to support government, government itself should work as much as the private sector. “

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  • LTC(ret) John||

    And I suppose their numbers would be even lower, if the legions of Illinois/Chicago "ghost payrollers" had been included, ugh.

  • ||

    If the public sector worked that additional month, governments could theoretically save around $130 billion in annual labor costs without reducing services.

    And yet these "savings" are never brought up as possible ways to get the most bank for the taxpayer's buck. How about government employees actually DO the work they are paid to do? (SLD about not wanting certain government employees to work too hard at screwing over the citizenry.)

  • BakedPenguin||

    SLD about not wanting certain government employees to work too hard at screwing over the citizenry.

    Pretty much what I was thinking. I read a memoir of Brezhnev-era Russia, and one of the lines I remember was along the lines of 'thankfully, we are too disorganized and lazy to fully enforce all of the terrible laws on the books.'

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Put another way, private employees spend around an extra month working each year...

    Smarch!

  • ||

    Their calculations, using the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, deliberately exclude school teachers, which would likely skew the public employee figures even further down.

    My mom works in a school of rejects (my words, not hers) and she probably puts in about 60 hours of work in a week. That being said, there are plenty of teachers who put in the 7:30 to 2:30 day and that's that. More evidence in my mind that the teachers who try to defend the fact that they DO ACTUALLY WORK a lot should not be the same people fighting for union benefits. If you work that hard, wouldn't you liked to be paid for it, rather than collectively bargaining so that you have to be paid the same amount as Mr. Douchebag who teaches gym for 30-35 hours a week?

  • BarryD||

    "That being said, there are plenty of teachers who put in the 7:30 to 2:30 day and that's that."

    And they get paid just as much, despite their apparent immunity to being "guilted" into altruism.

    Sounds like your mom could use a little Rand in her life.

    Seriously... Whatever you think of your average teacher, it's not the teacher's fault that we have a society with too many rejects.

  • Juice||

    Would Rand agree with that? Would she tell someone to be shitty at their profession if they loved to do it? If I understood The Fountainhead properly, I think she would be quite against doing that.

  • BarryD||

    Doing it for herself, yes. Doing it out of an obligation to sacrifice herself for others, no.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I love the panicked, angry bleating I get from the union sheep whenever I have occasion to point out that they are paid an entire 12 months for 9 months of actual work.

    BAA! Summer school! BAA! Lesson plans! BAA! Second job!

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    My experience differs from yours, apparently. It is experience you have, right, and not just "received wisdom?"

  • Anonymous Coward||

    My experience differs from yours

    Well la-dee-da. Do you have a point? Or just a surplus of smugfag you want to share with the world?

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Are you sure you want all the government you are paying for?

  • R C Dean||

    When I worked in downtown Madison, it was a standing joke that you didn't not want to be outside any of the state office buildings at 4:30 pm on a weekday, or you would get trampled by the stampede of workers who threw open the doors and charged out, making damn sure they didn't work one single minute past quittin' time.

  • Doctor Whom||

    It was the same with the Navy and Patent and Trademark Office workers in Crystal City, Virginia, when I worked there.

  • db||

    But if we did reduce government payrolls, whatever is to be done with the newly unemployed?

  • Doctor Whom||

    Well, drat, my surprised face is at the cleaners.

    Once, during a job interview, the interviewer told me that a certain large government agency justified its low wages with "We don't work so hard." During another, the headhunter said that employers tended to look askance at people who had worked for Uncle Sham for more than a year, since such people must be lazy.

  • freeAgent||

    Before we ask private-sector employees to work more to support government, government itself should work as much as the private sector.

    Never gonna happen.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    One thing I would be interested to see: is the shorter government work week because government workers actually work shorter days or because they have more vacation time?

  • Invisible Finger||

    So technically these employees don't qualify for Obamacare.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    Perhaps public school teachers work less time than private school teachers (most private schools are close-to-shoestring-budget affairs, contrary to what we are led to believe), but I have observed that teachers in general work very hard and long hours. I used to do "80 hours a week and loving it" at Apple in the Wild West 80s and 90s. To be fair, I was paid pretty handsomely for it, so no complaints here. My wife has worked at a private school startup (with no stock prospects, as it is a non-profit) for around the same length of time. She now works as hard as I remember working for Apple. When I have pitched in to help her, I also ended up working at least as hard as I did back in the day, but for much less pay. Over the years, we have become acquainted with many public and private school teachers, and I think including teachers would have skewed the statistics UP. Good teachers, public or private, spend a fair amount of time in prep work, training, or in other jobs during the "summer vacation," so even that time off isn't completely free, and doesn't drag down the time on the job number as much as you'd think.

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