6.1.1 Increased Use of Overtime

Historically, the increased use of overtime in preference to hiring additional workers has been one response to tightness in the labor force. Especially for exempt workers, the use of overtime may save money relative to hiring additional workers, because many fringe benefits, such as health insurance, unemployment insurance, and workers ' compensation, are fixed and the firm will not experience any increase in costs for these benefits when current employees work additional hours. As importantly, workers who can work overtime are in fact already on the payroll, and so an employer does not incur the costs of recruiting additional workers.

A common stereotype of IT workers portrayed in the popular press is that of workers who work long days and as much as 80 hours per week. Furthermore, this stereotype is typically described as being caused by the culture of the IT workplace, the push to bring products to market before other firms, and the overall shortage of workers available to IT firms. However, the quantitative data available to the committee do not support this stereotype across the board.

In particular, data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on selected Category 1 occupations indicate that, during 1997 and 1998, average weekly hours in these occupations were just under 40 hours per week. 1 By comparison, weekly hours across all workers averaged 34.6 during 1997 and 1998. Full-time managers, executives, and professional specialty workers, though, worked an average of 44.7 hours per week during 1999.

Figure 6.1 and Figure 6.2 illustrate a distribution of CPS-tabulated (Category 1) IT workers in numbers of hours worked per week. About 80 percent of computer systems analysts, computer scientists, and computer programmers worked between 36 and 50 hours per week in 1999 according to the CPS. A November 1999 survey by Software Development magazine, which yielded 3,928 responses to a question about hours worked per week, yielded similar results: among this self-selected group, 61 percent reported clocking 41 to 50 hours per week.2

Moreover, the percentage of employees who worked 40 or more hours per week was higher for each of lawyers and judges, health diagnostic occupations, and engineers than for IT jobs as tabulated by CPS. As shown in Figure 6.3, only 25 percent of computer programmers and 40 percent of computer systems analysts and scientists worked more than


U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, March 1999, special tabulation.


Morales, Alexandra Weber. 1999. “Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey,” Software Development, November. See <http://www.sdmagazine.com/articles/1999/0011/0011a/0011a.htm>.

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