BLS Examines 'Night Owl' Shift

If you stop and think about it, it's not surprising that firefighters, police officers, and others in protective services are on the clock at 2 a.m. Ditto for health care workers who are on call at all hours in hospitals and nursing homes. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' "American Time Use Survey," 14 percent of workers in protective services and 11 percent of employees in health care support are routinely toiling through the night, pulling the so-called graveyard shift. They are part of the more than 3 percent total of all full-time workers age 15 and over who were at their primary job at 2 a.m. on the day of the BLS survey.

Detailing information on how Americans spend their time, the survey averages data across four years, from 2003 to 2006. In that period, the study found, 9 percent of workers in the "Transportation and material moving" category and 9 percent employed in the "Production" category were performing their main job at 2 a.m. Other night owl occupations requiring workers to be clocked in at that early hour include the "Food preparation and serving related," "Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media," and "Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance" industries, each of which had 4 percent of their workforce on duty. Meanwhile, almost 6 percent of workers in the "Farming, fishing, and forestry" category are similarly laboring by moonlight, the survey found.

For more information about the survey, visit www.bls.gov/tus. The BLS site also offers downloadable articles on night work and other alternative or shift schedules, such as "Flexible work: Adjusting the when and where of your job," available at www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2007/summer/art02.pdf, and "A time to work: recent trends in shift work and flexible schedules," available at www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/12/art1full.pdf.

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