Top 3 Takeaways from the American Time Use Survey
While less time was spent working and purchasing, more hours were logged working from home
Last week I was intrigued by the results of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ new American Time Use Survey, especially as I considered how they tie into the print and office technology sectors. In this blog post, I’ll highlight my top three takeaways from the survey as well as their relevance to these markets.
A Little Background
The study shows how Americans spent their time during the COVID-19 pandemic, comparing information on work and leisure from May 10 through December 31, 2020, to the same time period in 2019.
Takeaway 1: More People Working from Home
We already knew this, but the details are interesting: The survey revealed that about 42% of employed adults were working at home on a given day in 2020, almost double the percentage in 2019; the largest increases in home working occurred in fields like financial activities, professional and business services, and education and health services (in contrast to fields like leisure and hospitality, transportation and utilities, and manufacturing). Also, people with more education were much more likely to be working from home.
|Percent of Employed Persons Who Worked at their Workplace vs. at Home in 2020, by Education Level|
|Source: American Time Use Survey|
These findings provide more evidence that print and technology needs shifted to the home in 2020, and suggest that continued home working is most likely to occur in fields like financial activities, professional services, education, and health services as well as among higher-educated individuals—establishing longer-term work-from-home and hybrid opportunities for print and office technology vendors.
Takeaway 2: Less Time Spent Working Overall
The study showed that the population, as a whole, spent 10% less time working in 2020 (or at least working in a traditional sense), driven by fewer people working. In fact, among those who continued to work during the pandemic, their average workday length shifted minimally—from 7.52 hours in 2019 to 7.49 hours in 2020. While shorter commute times (for many) could have driven up the length of the workday, to some extent the increased time spent on secondary childcare kept this from happening.
As the virus threat subsides and more people resume work (leading to more time spent working), this means more people are printing, using office technology, and requiring new equipment. While employment is still 6.8 million jobs below its peak in February, the economy created 850,000 jobs in June after adding 583,000 in May.
Takeaway 3: Less Time Spent Purchasing Overall
This might be surprising, given the instant access to Amazon, but while this survey looked at individual behavior and not business activity, it is interesting to note that the average time per day spent purchasing goods declined from 28 minutes in 2019 to 23 minutes in 2020. This was driven by the portion of people engaged on this activity on a given day, not by the average amount of time these shoppers devoted to it.
As in-person shopping opens up further and more people have the means to make purchases (driven by increased employment), this has positive implications for the consumer and SMB print and technology sectors. Of course, it is also important to remember that many people became accustomed to online methods of purchasing during the pandemic, and they may continue to acquire print and home office technology in this manner post-pandemic. Also, online purchasing habits by consumers may continue to make their way into purchase decision-making within businesses.
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