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Jeb Bush’s ‘work longer hours’ comment, and how much Americans currently work

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talks to supporters as he signs autographs from the window of a food truck after he formally announced that he would join the race for president with a speech at Miami Dade College, Monday, June 15, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader Wednesday, GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush appeared to suggest that people "work longer hours" to help spur a sluggish economy.

"My aspirations for the country -- and I believe we can achieve it -- is for 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see," he said. "Which means we have to be a lot more productive. Workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we are going to get out of this rut that we're in."

Bush later clarified that he was referring to those working part-time and not full-time workers. But Democrats have pounced, believing it to be a significant foul-up by Bush.

So how many hours do Americans actually work?

According to an August Gallup poll, 42 percent of U.S. workers 18 and older work 40 hours a week -- the standard for full-time employment, while 50 percent work longer than that. The average time Americans spend working is 47 hours -- nearly a full extra workday, Gallup noted.

And that's a very significant chunk of our days. The American Time Use Survey released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June tracked other things we do. We spend an average of 8.8 hours sleeping, 1.17 hours eating and drinking, and 1.77 hours doing household activities.

Subtract those and your average 9.4-hour workday from 24 hours, and you've got less than three hours -- 2.86, to be exact -- left to play with (assuming you don't work on the weekends, which...).

Looking at this another way, though, Americans work less than 14 of 32 other OECD countries. The below chart looks at average number of hours worked per week.

(The U.S. figure is lower than the 47 hours figure from above because the data include part-time workers and the weekly numbers are calculated from annual hours-world figures that include vacation time.)

  1. Mexico: 42.8 hours
  2. Costa Rica: 42.6
  3. Greece: 39.3
  4. Chile: 38.3
  5. Russia: 38.2
  6. Latvia: 37.3
  7. Poland: 37.0
  8. Iceland: 35.8
  9. Estonia: 35.75
  10. Hungary: 35.7
  11. Portugal: 35.7
  12. Israel: 35.6
  13. Lithuania: 35.3
  14. Ireland: 35.0
  15. United States: 34.4
  16. Czech Republic: 34.2
  17. New Zealand: 33.9
  18. Italy: 33.3
  19. Japan: 33.25
  20. Canada: 32.8
  21. Spain: 32.5
  22. United Kingdom: 32.25
  23. Australia: 32
  24. Finland: 31.6
  25. Luxembourg: 31.6
  26. Austria: 31.3
  27. Sweden: 30.9
  28. Switzerland: 30.1
  29. Slovenia: 30.0
  30. Denmark: 27.6
  31. Norway: 27.4
  32. Netherlands: 27.4
  33. Germany: 26.4

So it would appear, if Europe and the rest of North America are any guide, we work about an average number of hours.