Transportation

Long Commutes Give New Yorkers Nation’s Longest Workweek

March 24, 2015
By Steven Wishnia

If you’re haggardly picking up pizza after a 55-minute trip home on the 2 or F trains, you’re not alone. Long hours and longer commutes mean New Yorkers have the longest workweek of any major U.S. city, according to a report released last week by city Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

The study showed that, based on the data from the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey, the city’s average full-time workweek is 42 hours, 50 minutes. That tied for 11th place among the nation’s 30 biggest cities—shorter than San Francisco and Washington, but longer than Detroit and Milwaukee.

New Yorkers, however, spent by far the most time getting to and from work. The city’s average weekly commuting time of 6 hours, 18 minutes was almost an hour more than second-place Chicago. It brought the total workweek up to more than 49 hours.

Highly paid professionals—financial managers, lawyers, doctors, and executives—worked the longest hours on average, but benefited from shorter commutes, as they were much more likely to live in Manhattan. Lower-paid service workers, such as cooks, waitresses, cashiers, janitors, and home health aides, spend more than 3 hours longer commuting here than they would in other cities. Security guards averaged more than 8 hours a week commuting.

Unlike lawyers, who make significantly more here than they do in other cities, the longer work hours and added commuting time make many low-wage workers effectively poorer than they would be elsewhere. “Due to long commutes and lower pay, nursing and home health-care aides earned an effective wage premium that was 11 percent less than their counterparts in other large cities even before adjusting for the higher cost of living,” the report says. 

That high cost of living, of course, includes the city’s skyrocketing housing costs, which have increasingly pushed working-class people out of Manhattan and the parts of Brooklyn and Queens closest to it. “New York is America’s hardest working city, but it’s a one-two punch for lower wage workers, who get paid less and travel longer to get to work,” Stringer said in a statement.  “This means employees in the Big Apple get paid less than it appears on an hourly basis, because their commutes are significantly greater than anyone else in the country.”

The report also speculated that this might be a reason why women with children are less likely to have jobs or be looking for work than they are in other cities. The labor-force participation rate for New York City mothers was 3 percentage points lower than the average of the other 29 cities in the study.

March 23, 2015

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