The labour market recovery is now in full flow with unemployment falling to 6.4% in the second quarter of 2014. However, real wages continue to fall, and the data on average weekly hours worked suggests that this is not due to part-time working any more.
What does the chart show?
The blue line, measured against the left hand axis in millions of hours, shows the total number of hours worked by UK workers per week. The red line, measured against the right hand axis, shows the average number of hours worked each week by UK workers. Both figures are seasonally adjusted.
Why is the chart interesting?
As a result of the recession in 2008, both total and average hours worked dropped considerably. Since the trough in the middle of 2009, both have been recovering steadily, and while total hours worked overtook the pre-crisis level last year (and have now reached roughly the point they would have been at now had their pre-crisis trajectory continued), the average weekly number of hours worked per worker has only just caught back up to the previous peak in 2008. One of the explanations often given for the poor wage growth that continues to affect the economy was that the prevalence of part-time workers was dragging down the average. If that was ever true, it doesn’t appear to be the case any more: people are now working on average the same amount of hours as they did before the recession hit.