There’s a good piece of advice in Edward Lazear’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on the most recent jobs report:
The labor market’s strength and economic activity are better measured by the number of total hours worked than by the number of people employed. An employer who replaces 100 40-hour-per-week workers with 120 20-hour-per-week workers is contracting, not expanding operations. The same is true at the national level.
Using that measure how does the jobs report fare?
The total hours worked per week is obtained by multiplying the reported average workweek hours by the number of workers employed. The decline in the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls by 3/10ths of an hour—offset partially by the increase in the number of people working—means that real labor usage on net, taking into account hours worked, fell by the equivalent of 100,000 jobs since September.
To start adding jobs and putting the people who’ve been out of work for so long back to work we need to increase the hours worked rather than reducing them. I can’t help but wonder if the number of uncompensated hours is rising even as the number of compensated hours falls. Given the president’s recent proposal about over-time pay, I suspect that’s what he’s decided.