Why NyC Workers Work The Longest Hours


From Wall Street executives to home health aides, New York City’s full-time employees are the nation’s hardest-working, thanks to commutes that, over a week, amount to nearly a full day of work, according to a report by Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Analyzing U.S. Census data, Mr. Stringer found that full-time workers in New York labor longer than their counterparts in 29 major U.S. cities. This is mostly thanks to longer-than-average commuting times, which amount to about 6 hours and 18 minutes per week, or two hours longer than the national average. But even when they reach the office, New York’s full-time employees are staying at work longer than the rest of the nation.

A week of commuting and working in New York City averages over 49 hours—three to four hours more than in some other large cities.

Average weekly work and commuting time (hours, minutes)

City Weekly work Weekly commute Total time
New York 42.50 6.18 49.08
San Francisco 44.01 4.57 48.58
Washington, D.C. 43.50 4.49 48.39
Houston 43.44 4.33 48.18
Fort Worth, Texas 43.43 4.18 48.01

“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,” Mr. 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. New Yorkers are dedicated, ambitious and tough, but to compete in the 21st century we need to expand our transit networks and advance policies like flexible work arrangements and predictable scheduling.”

Bankers and finance employees in New York City put in 53 hours per week, almost four more than their counterparts in other cities. Longer work hours, relative to other cities, are characteristic of the majority of the city’s industries, including advertising, media, computer and legal services. Accountants and auditors, financial managers, cashiers, and janitors and building cleaners also have relatively long workweeks.

Mr. Stringer sees several effects of New York’s intensive work culture. Women, for example, are less likely to return to work after having children than their counterparts in other major cities. And low-income workers, such as security guards and home health aides, often cannot afford to live close to where they work, and thus have disproportionately long commutes.

Security guards have the longest trips to work, spending more than eight hours per week commuting, on average. Nursing and home health aides and maids and housekeepers also report long commutes, while chief executives, physicians and surgeons report some of the shortest commutes, thanks to healthy incomes that boost their housing options.

Because of New York’s higher-than-average wages, some workers enjoy a salary premium that offsets their extra labor and travel time, Mr. Stringer found. Lawyers and judges earn, on average, 22% more than their counterparts in other large cities but have combined workweeks only 7% longer, yielding what Mr. Stringer deemed an effective wage premium of 15%. Full-time cooks, with an adjusted wage premium of 8%, and waiters and waitresses, with an adjusted differential of only 4%, do not benefit as much from their lengthy New York workweeks.

Mr. Stringer said he would use the findings in his report to push for progressive workplace policies that give workers more flexibility and improve commutes.

“We need to give New Yorkers a 21st-century transit system and better utilize women’s skills so that they don’t have to choose between work and family,” he said.

New York City commutes have long been the most time-consuming in the nation, on average, but experts point out that the comparison should account for the higher use here of mass transit, which some find easier than driving.

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