Oregon’s Workweek Partially Rebounds
by David Cooke
Oregon Employment Department
A closely watched measure of state economic activity is average weekly hours for manufacturing production workers. This monthly indicator has been available for Oregon for many years. The measure was close to 40 hours per week in early 2008 but then dropped rapidly as the recession took hold. Its low point was reached in March 2009 at 35.5 hours per week, which was by far the lowest reading in more than seven years.
During the second quarter of 2009, the manufacturing workweek staged a partial rebound, gaining ground in each of the three months to reach 37.9 hours per week by June (Graph 1). The average workweek would need to expand by about one additional hour to reach a more normal figure of 39 hours per week.
Since 2007, the Oregon Employment Department has also produced more broad-based measures of weekly hours. These data cover not just production workers, but also managers and supervisors. They cover all private-sector employees on the monthly payroll employment survey and are available for the major industries.
Total private average weekly hours data are seasonal, with longer workweeks in the summer months and shorter weeks in the winter. In addition, the data show a clear drop in hours worked this year compared with 2007 and 2008. The June 2009 average was 33.1, compared with 34.9 in June 2008 and 34.4 in June 2007 (Graph 2).
It is evident that the substantial reduction in employment and output during Oregon’s economic downturn of the past 12 months has been accompanied by a reduced average workweek. The last few months have shown the beginnings of a rebound – from a very low figure – in average weekly hours of manufacturing production workers.