Lazear on declining work hours

by Ryan Streeter on March 17, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Eddie Lazear sees troubling data in the recent jobs numbers:

The average workweek in the U.S. has fallen to 34.2 hours in February from 34.5 hours in September 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That decline, coupled with mediocre job creation, implies that the total hours of employment have decreased over the period.

After ruling out math errors and bad weather, he speculates:

Another possibility for the declining average workweek is the Affordable Care Act. That law induces businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees—full-time defined as 30 hours per week—to keep the number of hours low to avoid having to provide health insurance. The jury is still out on this explanation, but research by Luis Garicano, Claire LeLarge and John Van Reenen (National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2013) has shown that laws that can be evaded by keeping firms small or hours low can have significant effects on employment.