Weak demand is still the main jobs problem

at 02:15 PM ET, 12/02/2011

We’ve already seen a number of reasons to believe that weak consumer demand — rather than taxes or regulatory uncertainty — is the main thing holding back the U.S. economy right now. Here’s another. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the length of the average workweek has been holding steady at 34.3 hours per week for several months now, up just slightly from 34.2 weeks last November.

Why is this telling? The Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz explains: “This underscores that the lack of hiring right now results from a lack of demand, not businesses’ concerns about regulatory burdens or other issues. If businesses needed workers to meet demand but were reluctant to hire because of some other reason, we would see them strongly ramping up the hours of the workers they have. As it is, there are currently 5.6 million workers who want full-time work but who can only get part-time hours at their job because there is not enough work for them to do.”

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