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. "