Surprise! Data Reveal: Private Sector Works Harder Than Public Employees

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Hallis Mailen sleeps on Sunday in the rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol as a round-the-clock protest continues over the proposed budget and bargaining rights.

What a surprise.  Empirical data from researchers at the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation reveal that employees in the private sector spend an additional month working each year compared to those in the public sector.

The Wall Street Journal reports,

With state and local governments struggling to balance budgets in a still sluggish economy, government employment has fallen by 562,000 jobs since September 2008, a decline of 2.6%. In response, the Obama administration has called for more federal aid—on top of the $250 billion doled out in the 2009 Recovery Act—to help keep state and local government payrolls near prerecession levels.

But supporters of more federal aid implicitly assume that the size of the public sector was optimal before the recession. On the contrary, overstaffing is a serious problem in government, and the best evidence is a simple empirical fact: Government employees don’t work as much as private employees. If public-sector employees just worked as many hours as their private counterparts, governments at all levels could save more than $100 billion in annual labor costs.

How do we know that? Are we just dredging up well-worn stereotypes of government employees enjoying shorter work days, prolonged sick leave and extended vacation breaks? In fact, new evidence from a comprehensive and objective data set confirms that the “underworked” government employee is more than a stereotype.  …

The time-use survey’s data on work time are far more comprehensive and objective than any other available data source. The survey doesn’t undercount working at home versus working at an office, or working evenings rather than working regular business hours. If, for example, an individual was working at 2 a.m. on the weekend, the American Time Use Survey will account for it.  …

What we found was that during a typical workweek, private-sector employees work about 41.4 hours. Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours, and state and local government employees work 38.1 hours. In a calendar year, private-sector employees work the equivalent of 3.8 more 40-hour workweeks than federal employees and 4.7 more weeks than state and local government workers.  Put another way, private employees spend around an extra month working each year compared with public employees. If the public sector worked that additional month, governments could theoretically save around $130 billion in annual labor costs without reducing services. 

Based on the most detailed and objective data set available, the private sector really does work more than the public sector. This fact may hold different lessons for different people, but our own take is simple: Before we ask private-sector employees to work more to support government, government itself should work as much as the private sector.

Compare this with the unemployment chart below of the public and private sectors.

Chart from the American Enterprise Institute

We could save $130 billion by reducing the unproductive bloat of Obama’s precious government empire.  Instead, Obama would rather divert the country with hatred and division by maligning the private sector producers.  Resulting in more unemployment for the hardest workers.

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  • forest

    Well then, we’ll have to find a way to make the private folks work less.

  • Mad Hatter

    Hey look, it’s that picture of Michael Moore.

  • BurmaShave

    Surprise! Data Reveal: Private Sector Works Harder Than Public Employees

    Yet another Surprise! Further Data Reveal: It gets dark at night.

  • BurmaShave

    The latest oxymoron: Civil Servants

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  • mn jim

    Looks like Hallis never missed a meal, even while on picket duty…

  • Nelle

    It would be interesting to see a study of public sector vs private sector CEO’s

  • as a former municipal employee i could have told you this.

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  • Jerry C

    Government employees say, “Job security.” They were right. We had to climb over Mt. Everest to try to get someone fired even when we documented their obvious disrespect for their job.

    I recall employees taking many breaks; 2 or more hours for lunch, filing nails on the job, coming into work in the morning & clocking out (!) only to clock in (!) when leaving and leaving “early” during the week because they got their “40” hours of work and one guy admitting to sexual harrassment only to be transferred to another department.

    Thank God I told myself I would no longer work for the government and didn’t look back.

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  • bg


    Obama sued Gallup, ergo..

    more propaganda vs reality

    Obama Voters Love “Socialism”


  • RKflorida

    Glad to see that Stinky is back. Loves them feets.

  • The most slothful and lazy public servant, so called, is none other than Mubarack Hussein bin Obama, if that’s his name, who does nothing but golf, party, mix with equally deviant men and women and the more deviant the better, while insidiously accrue ever more unchecked power to himself, and who is totally unqualified and ineligible to be president. Not to worry, though, why should a foreigner born of a Muslim father elected to the WH bother working when he has a foreigner named V. Jarrett born of a Muslim father in a Muslim nation and unelected to the WH to do his work while he plays ay being king over the detested bitter clingers who call themselves Americans.

  • SeniorD

    We could also save billions of bucks firing Congressional Staff, taxing Lobbyist payoffs to politicians at 1,000% rate, converting Capitol Hill into a museum and using video links instead and making the elected ‘Royals’ actually do some work.

    Then we start on the bloated, non-working Executive Department – eliminate the Departments of Energy, Education, Veteran Affairs, USPS.

    There, Buget balances.

  • The Central Scrutinizer

    Just look at teachers, the cushiest job in the country. 182 days a year times MAYBE 7 hours a day (8 AM – 3 PM at most) with paid lunch hour . That adds up to 1274 Hours a year including paid lunch hour. The Average private sector shlep works 2000 hours a year (50 Weeks x 40 Hrs.) Don’t give the crap that they have to bring work home with them because most of them don’t. My sister is a teacher in NJ and she was bitching about her job and Chris Christie one day. I told her that there is always the private sector schools. Her response was. “I worked in the private sector once and I’m not going to do that again”

  • Buffalobob

    Private sector works harder than public employees. Don’t tell that to the union goons who are picketing the SS office in Boise ID today. They want their clients to lobby congress on their behalf to not cut SS union employees or their benefits. Yes you read that correctly, they don’t mention cutting SS benefits to SS recipients, they don’t want their cushy government job/benefits cut.

  • paul52

    Ah, hah! Another Hallis Mailen sighting. Who sez there are no whales in Lake Michigan?

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