We have some great news for those Americans who are still in the labor force (so that excludes about 92 million working age US citizens) and still have a (full-time) job: you are now working longer than ever! In fact, as JPM’s Michael Cembalest observes using Conference Board data, the average manufacturing workweek is now just shy of 42 hours – the longest in over 60 years. And there are those who say Americans are lazy…
Of course, with labor productivity stuck in limbo this is to be expected: corporations, desperate to extract every last ounce of efficiency from their workers, are making them work hard, not smart, in order to boost bottom lines, and activist investors’ P&Ls.
One tangent: even as companies are putting more people into the same amount of office space, reducing square footage per worker, the point at which more space will have to be added, or where the lack of slack becomes unbearable, is a long way away: as the chart below shows, while there was over 330 square feet per worker in 2011 when the average workweek was a little over 40 hours, it is currently roughly 20 square feet higher over 350. So yes: the slack if being absorbed. Very… Very… Slowly. In fact at this rate, courtesy of the tens of millions of Americans who no longer have any chance of reentering the work force, all those betting on wage inflation as a result of slack absorption may have to wait another 5, 10 maybe 15 years before the existing labor capacity is hit and office space and new workers have to be added.
Until then, Americans have much longer workweeks to look forward to and not to mention, flat or declining wages to go along with it: after all in the New Normal, corporations – especially those who directly and indirectly control the Fed – have all the leverage.