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Why Longer Work Weeks Are Good News for the Unemployed


Even if you’re not one of the folks who snapped up the 236,000 jobs added in February, there’s reason to feel optimistic. The average work week expanded from 34.4 hours per week in January to 34.5 in February, a statistic that many of us overlooked in our shock and delight at a higher-than-expected jobs number. Here’s why it’s cause for (cautious) celebration.

Drew Matus, an economist at investment bank UBS, tells USA Today reporter Tim Mullaney that the extra hours worked are the equivalent of 329,000 new jobs. And while employers obviously aren’t going to drop work weeks back down the previous month’s level and hire 300,000-plus new employees, it does mean that we might soon reach a point where companies can no longer expand their existing worker’s hours — and will instead be forced to hire new staff.

In any case, this expansion is good for the economy.

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“If people working hourly get more hours, it’s more money in their pocket,” says Matus. “It leads to more demand, more retail hiring and eventually more hiring generally.”

Of course, this jobs report comes on the heels of massive budget cuts thanks to sequestration. It remains to be seen what the effect of spending reductions will be on the economy. But for now, we can bask in the glow of a little bit more good news.

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(Photo Credit: Philo Nordlund/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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