Shocker: Gov’t employees “underworked”

Punch line: If public-sector employees just worked as many hours as their private counterparts, governments at all levels could save more than $100 billion in annual labor costs.

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According to a report in the WSJ

New evidence from a comprehensive and objective data set confirms that the “underworked” government employee is more than a stereotype.


Based on the American Time Use Survey, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics administers to a large and representative sample of American households each year:

  • During a typical workweek, private-sector employees work about 41.4 hours.
  • Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours
  • 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.

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Another reason that I hate to pay taxes …

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2 Responses to “Shocker: Gov’t employees “underworked””

  1. Tim Says:

    I haven’t read the whole article, but I am curious how public school teachers might affect these averages, given that they clearly work fewer weeks than most people, and that there are a lot of them. I’d think we would want to separate them out, or at least adjust for their work-year, since there’s no obvious reason that we’d actually want them to put in 12 months.

  2. John Carpenter Says:

    Public school teachers may work fewer weeks but not hours/year. A quick check to see who is coaching kid’s athletics, doing after school programs, or grading kids papers at night and on weekends will show this. The summer weeks off also replace vacation, which is very difficult to get during the school year. Remember to subtract that. Because of the workload public school teacher “burn-out”, even in the “nice” schools, is about 3 to 5 years for those teachers smart enough to get other jobs. Pay during those years is also dismal, so remember the dollars/hours comp. Addressing this problem is complicated because the teachers unions protect teachers with longer service at the expense of new teachers. No one protects charter school teachers.

    Otherwise I agree. I have had a lot of experience with government workers, especially in the DC area. In significant numbers it is just another form of welfare. Managers quickly learn to depend on the 50% or so who are productive. Productive employees get the work and the unproductive are promoted out of the department. It is impossible to fire them.

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