Jeb Bush's working hours: By the numbers

Jeb Bush speaks during town hall meeting in Hudson, N.H., July 8, 2015.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
Jeb Bush speaks during town hall meeting in Hudson, N.H., July 8, 2015.

Thirty-four and a half hours just ain't enough.

"People need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families," Jeb Bush told the editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader. Bush said the extra hours were needed to achieve his goal of 4 percent economic growth.

People are still struggling through this "anemic recovery," he said, and they need a chance to work longer hours. Looking at the data, it looks like Americans are working exactly the same amount as they were before the recession.

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In fact, Americans work an average of 34.5 hours per week, a number in line with hours worked before the recession, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not only are the hours equally long, but we're being more productive. Productivity per hour has been at an all-time high in recent quarters: Output in the first quarter of 2015 was 11 percent greater than Q1 2006.

In February, post-recession hours worked peaked at 34.6 and have stayed above 34 hours since March 2010. In the depths of the downturn, they hit a seasonally adjusted average of 33.7 hours in June 2009.

Bush immediately drew criticism for being out of touch and the comments were likened to gaffes made by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race. Bush later clarified his comments for reporters after a town hall meeting a VFW in Hudson, New Hampshire.

"If we're going to grow the economy people need to stop being part-time workers, they need to be having access to greater opportunities to work," he said.

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The BLS separates part-time workers into categories for those who are not full time for economic and noneconomic reasons. A worker would be part time for economic reasons if they can't find a full-time job or unfavorable business conditions are affecting their ability to find work. A worker might choose to work part time for noneconomic reasons if they have child care or family obligations, are in school or are retired and have Social Security limits on their earnings.

People working part time for economic reasons skyrocketed during the Recession, but has been declined significantly since then. The figure's decline has smoothed out in recent months, suggesting an ongoing trend. In June, 4.1 percent of the overall labor force was working part time for economic reasons, just a quarter of all part-time workers.

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