28. Hours Worked, Overtime, and Time Use in Construction and Other Industries
The two major data sources for hours worked in the United States are the Current Employment Statistics (CES; see page 10) and the Current Population Survey (CPS; see page 10). The measures employed by these two surveys differ, but they show similar trends.
According to the CES data, production workers in construction worked consistently more hours per week on average than employees on private nonfarm payrolls from 1985 to 2015. Hours worked per week among production workers increased slightly after the recession, but the gap between construction and the overall nonfarm workforce widened, from 5.0 hours in 2010 (38.4 hours versus 33.4 hours) to 5.9 hours in 2015 (39.6 hours versus 33.7 hours; chart 28a). It should be noted that the CES data are collected from employers about their employees’ paid hours, and do not reflect the total number of working hours of individuals holding more than one job. For example, if an employee worked 25 hours per week at one job and 15 hours per week at another, the CES counted these as two jobs rather than a single employee working 40 hours per week.
In contrast, the CPS data are collected from individual workers regarding the total number of hours worked on all jobs held during the survey reference period. The CPS data indicate that construction workers worked an average of 39.7 hours per week in 2015 compared to 37.7 hours per week in 2010, suggesting greater access to full-time employment after the economic recovery.1 Nearly a quarter (24.8%) of construction workers reported working overtime in 2015, higher than all industries combined (21.5%), but less than mining and agriculture workers (chart 28b).
Within construction, a higher proportion of self-employed workers than wage-and-salary workers worked more than 40 hours a week (32% versus 23%; chart 28c). On the other hand, about 20% of construction workers worked less than 35 hours in 2015, down from 25% in 2010.1
In addition to hours worked, the CPS asks respondents every March about the total number of hours and weeks they worked in the previous calendar year. Overall, construction workers reported working 47.7 weeks or 1,823 hours in 2015, compared to 47.2 weeks or 1,729 hours for workers in all industries the same year.2
The American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which asks randomly selected respondents from the CPS to report their activities during a 24-hour period, provides insight on how, where, and with whom Americans spend their time. The ATUS data from 2013 to 2015 showed that construction workers devoted slightly more time (7.9 hours) to work and related activities than the average worker (7.6 hours), and spent less time on sleeping, leisure and sports, and household activities (chart 28d).
While working overtime is a common way to speed up schedule-driven projects or to address labor shortages in construction when the economy is rebounding, working longer hours does not necessarily yield higher productivity,3 and may increase health and safety-related risks.4,5
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1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011 and 2016 Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (or March Supplement). Calculations by the CPWR Data Center. The estimated hours and weeks worked annually are less accurate than hours worked per week reported on this page. Information on hours worked per week is collected monthly, and the estimates were an average of 12 months. Information on hours and weeks worked annually is only collected in every March, and the estimates were based on a one-time report for a long recall period (a calendar year), which largely reduces data reliability. Moreover, construction jobs are seasonal. Since March is a slow month in construction, data collected in March may only capture year-round core construction workers and not the seasonal workers that work fewer weeks per year. As a result, hours worked per year reported among construction workers may be overestimated.
3. Hanna AS, Taylor CS, Sullivan KT. 2005. Impact of extended overtime on construction labor productivity. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 131(6): 734-739.
4. NIOSH Workplace Safety & Health Topics. 2015. Work schedules: Shift work and long work hours. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/workschedules/ (Accessed October 2016).
5. Kivimaki M, Jokela M, Nyberg S, Singh-Manoux A, Fransson E, Alfredsson L, et al. 2015. Long working hours and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished data for 603,838 individuals. The Lancet, 386(10005): 1739-1746.
Chart 28a – Data cover the private sector nonfarm payrolls and exclude the self-employed.
Chart 28a – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment, Hours, and Earnings. Table B-7: Average weekly hours and overtime of production and non-supervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted. http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab7.htm (Accessed June 2016).
Charts 28b and 28c – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Chart 28d – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2013–2015 American Time Use Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.