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  Chapter Two:

  Men's Occupations
  Farm Operators
  Employee Fatalities
  Men's Working Lives
  Work Hours
  Daily Housework
  Working Women
  Women at Work: Values
  Women's Occupations
  Minority Professionals
  Labor Unions



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Work Hours

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Daily and weekly work hours declined until World War II, but annual work hours continued to decline moderately throughout the century.
In 1890, the typical factory work schedule was ten hours a day, six days a week, for a total of sixty hours. Thereafter, it fell steadily, reaching thirty-five hours per week in 1934. Expecting this trend to continue, most observers anticipated the advent of a twenty-hour workweek. It never happened. The average factory work-week climbed to forty-five hours at the peak of production during World War II, declined to forty hours after the war, and remained at that level until the early 1980s, when it began to inch upward. By 1999, the average manufacturing employee worked about forty-two hours per week. 

The hours of office workers were slightly shorter and much more comfortable in 1900. While factory workers ate lunch at their machines, office workers came in later and went home for a long lunch at midday. Saturday became a half-day for both groups after 1920 and disappeared from most work schedules around 1960. Office workers continued to come in later and work shorter hours throughout the century. 

Retail store employees always had heavier-than-average schedules. Thirteen-hour workdays were common in retail stores in the early years of the century. At the end of the century, retail employees worked shorter hours, but they were often required to work on weekends and holidays. 

Unlike weekly and daily hours, annual work hours continued to decline slowly because of longer vacations, more sick and parental leave, and time off for obligations such as voting, jury duty, and military reserve service. 

Average work hours are calculated for full-time or full-time-equivalent workers and do not include the steadily increasing numbers of part-time and seasonal workers or multiple jobholders. Taken together, these workers constituted about a third of the U.S. labor force at the end of the century.

Chapter 2 chart 6

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series D 803. Data for 19712000 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data retrieval system at (accessed September 4, 2000).


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