US Web population increases online leisure time, but still trails China.

Americans are spending more time online, on both a daily and weekly basis. At-home access far outstripped at-work access time in 2008, according to Harris Interactive.

Expect both trends to continue in 2009, as a hefty percentage of unemployed people use the Internet to find jobs or additional training or education, and adults who are worried about the economic and international news check in more frequently.

However, US adults are not world leaders in spending leisure time online. That distinction goes to Internet users in China, who spent 44% of their leisure time on the Internet in 2008, according to TNS Global. The company found that Americans ranked fifth worldwide, at 30% of leisure time spent online—virtually tied with Italy (31%), Spain and Australia (29% each).

The US may move up in the rankings in coming years. Since 2001, the average amount of time US adults spent online per week doubled, from 7 hours to 14 hours. Harris Interactive’s annual telephone poll revealed that average Internet hours grew slowly between 2001 and 2006, but took off in 2007 and increased even more rapidly in 2008.
At-home usage saw a more dramatic surge during that time, according to the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future. Their yearly survey found that US Internet users spent an average of 15.3 hours per week online in 2007, compared with about 9 hours the year before.

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