Working more hours

Job growth in North Carolina has been disappointing. Since last fall, one report shows jobs in the state up only by 12,000. Another shows an increase of 24,000. Is there any economic factor that may make these numbers sound a little better? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden answers.

“First just a little background. … We lost 300,000 jobs during the recession in North Carolina, so gaining back 12,000 or 24,000 a year obviously is just not cutting it in terms of getting us back to a total economic recovery.

“Yes, there is a factor though that may — these numbers sound a little better, and that is that during the initial stages of an economic recovery usually what we find is that rather than hiring more people, businesses work their existing folks more hours. And so what we’ve seen both in the nation as well as North Carolina over the last year is a substantial increase in the average work week.

“Translated: People are working more hours per week.

“Now if we went back and took account of that increase in the work week — that is to say, if we went back and said, ‘Let’s play as if we are going to keep that work week constant that we had at the beginning of the year’ and said, ‘How many more jobs then would we have needed to generate in order to generate the amount of work that we had North Carolina would have increased jobs by 55,000 last year rather than the 12,000 or 24,000 based on the two different studies?

“So this gives us a little more confidence in our job market. The fact that one reason why the number of jobs has not gone up so much is the … work week — but I think it does still indicate that we are in for a slow job market.”

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