Unemployed have picked up other forms of labor

Nearly 1 in 10 members of the American work force are unemployed — a level not seen in 27 years.

Without a paying job, these Americans have picked up other forms of labor: vacuuming the house, sending out résumés, taking classes and caring for family. And the unemployed have more time for leisure and socializing.

Sunday Business analyzed new data from the American Time Use Survey to compare the 2008 weekday activities of the employed and unemployed. The comparison may seem obvious, but differences in time spent by these two groups can be striking.

On an average weekday, the unemployed sleep an hour more than their employed peers. They tidy the house, do laundry and yard work for more than two hours, twice as much as the employed. The unemployed also spend an extra hour in the classroom and an additional 70 minutes in front of the television.

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The annual time use survey, which asks thousands of residents to recall every minute of a single day, is important to economists trying to value the time spent by those not bringing home a paycheck.

“If all we were doing is substituting production at home for production in the marketplace,” said Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, “then maybe unemployment wouldn’t be so bad.”

Via New York Times