The Job Hunt: With fewer hours at work, productivity rises as unemployment hits 7.6%


For all the workers being laid off and all of the work furloughs being instated at companies across the nation, it looks like companies are getting their money's worth, according to productivity data released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Productivity -- measured by output per hour -- rose 2.8% in the nonfarm business sector in 2008. It was the largest productivity increase since a similar gain in 2004, and was due more to the declines in hours than in the small gains in output, according to the preliminary productivity data. All this on a day when unemployment rose again, now at 7.6%, and job losses were reported across all major industries.

In other words, fewer hours worked by fewer workers is equating to more productivity. Somehow, the work is getting done by fewer people.

For example, some of my former colleagues at a newspaper I worked at before being laid off last summer were asked last week to take one week off without pay by the end of March. The work furlough was a way to save the company money and to hopefully avoid more layoffs.