If it seems like time spent at the office is dragging on, it might not be just in your head. The latest government data shows the average work week edged up to 34.5 hours in February from 34.4 hours in January.
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The tick up has some economists touting that employers might increase their hiring to keep up with demand and stay productive.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 236,000 jobs in February, bringing the unemployment rate to 7.7% from 7.9% in January.
John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says it’s no surprise the workweek is getting longer because across all industries, the boundaries between work and personal life have become increasingly blurred.
“In the past it transitioned gradually,” Challenger says. “You worked from 9:00 to 5:00, but had a break—you were either working or not working. There were always workaholics who were there afterhours, but now with technology, the work and personal time is fused all in one.”
Despite more work being demanded from employees, Challenger does not expect a surge in hiring.
“This is a change we are seeing year-by-year,” he says. “One of the things that happens when the economy is strong is that the pressure on employers leads to not only increases in jobs created, but also in hours worked.”
Employers therefore can’t always afford to hire new people right away, but can ask them to work longer hours, he says. In the manufacturing industry, for example, the work week is longer than it was in the years leading up to the recession, at 40.9 hours a week and 39.9 hours a week respectively.
“I do, to some extent, agree that this may create more jobs,” he says. “But I think that may be pushing it a bit. It’s not like we had some big change in the last year that things are somehow different than the way they were.”