With the economy struggling to find its footing, Americans spent less time at work last year and found more time for leisure activities such as watching television, a new government survey finds.

The average American aged 15 or older spent three hours, 32 minutes a day doing work-related activities last year, according to the American Time Use Survey released by the Labor Department on Thursday. That is down from 2011, when time spent on work jumped from three hours and 30 minutes to three hours and 34 minutes. While such changes may not seem big, average yearly changes in time spent on different activities tend to be small, and even minor changes are significant.

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The survey, which has been conducted annually since 2003 and includes both employed and unemployed persons, suggests America’s sluggish recovery continues to hamper workers. While the U.S. unemployment rate fell last year from 8.3% to 7.8%—it is now at 7.6%—other trends are likely holding down average hours spent at work. The number of part-time workers was higher in 2012 than the year before, for example

“The recovery has basically been a recovery for a tiny fraction of the population,” said Geoffrey Godbey, professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of “Time For Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time.” “What you’re seeing is people who might want more work but aren’t getting it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the share of the population working or looking for a job dropped to 63.6% at the end of last year, compared with 64% in December 2011. That number, known as the labor force participation rate, has been falling as a result of a combination of discouraged workers dropping out of the workforce and baby boomers retiring.

The aging of America’s population means fewer people are working and more retirees are at home watching TV, Mr. Godbey said. At the same time, women have become a larger share of America’s labor force, but tend to work fewer hours than men do. And there’s a growing informal economy, he said, that might not be captured by government surveys.

With less time spent at work, Americans boosted the portion of their day going to leisure and sports activities: Time spent on leisure jumped about nine minutes to five hours and 22 minutes. Americans watched TV for two hours and 50 minutes a day, a second-straight increase from two hours and 44 minutes in 2010. Meanwhile, time spent sleeping edged up to eight hours and 44 minutes, from eight hours and 40 minutes in 2010. Time devoted to volunteering and cooking, meanwhile, fell.

Wendy Wang, a sociologist at the Pew Research Center, said the changing nature of fatherhood is also altering the way Americans use their time. In a March report based partly on the government’s survey, she found fathers were logging in fewer hours a week on job-related activities, roughly 37 hours on average in 2011, compared with 42 in 1965. Also, more American fathers are working part-time, and spending more time doing chores and with their kids. “Fathers think they need to go home earlier,” she said.

Indeed, the latest government survey shows men spent slightly more time doing housework than in 2011, while the reduction in time spent at work was more pronounced for men than women.

By Neil Shah , WSJ, June 20, 2013

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Aaron Thomas would go for walks that had almost a scripted ending. He’d see a woman. His heart would race. His hands would shake. He’d approach her. He’d scare her into submission.

Then he would rape her.

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Aaron Thomas is suspected of carrying out at least a dozen rapes and other attacks.

“They were objects,” Thomas said. “Whoever came down the street, an object.. . . It’s awful. It’s scary. . . . I don’t know why I couldn’t just stop.”

Thomas says he is the East Coast Rapist: the man who terrorized women in the Washington area and New England beginning in the early 1990s, culminating in an attack on three trick-or-treating teenagers in Prince William County in 2009. His crimes, which spanned nearly half his life, gripped the region with the kind of fear that comes from an unknown man, lurking in the darkness, attacking strangers who were doing such everyday tasks as walking home from work, waiting for a bus, moving out of an apartment or even sleeping in their own bed.

In hours of telephone interviews with The Washington Post from his jail cell in Prince William County, Thomas for the first time publicly acknowledged that he attacked women in several states. He said he has struggled to understand why he did it, and why he did it so many times — more than a dozen rapes by his count, although police think there were probably many more.

Thomas’s unusual pretrial confessions offer the first real picture of the man who eluded police for decades. Interviews with Thomas, his family and others close to him tell a brutal story about the troubled son of a D.C. cop who grew into a ruthless criminal. He was a doting father figure and fun-loving companion but also jealous, violent and prone to sneak out at night, when he would prey on the vulnerable and hide his actions from everyone.

He was street-smart, tough, physically chiseled and unpredictable. Thomas was also careless enough to leave his DNA at 13 different attack locations, according to police, creating a long trail that would inevitably tie him to them all. Loved ones said he hinted several times that he had done terrible things, but he was never specific and they never pressed him. Those around him didn’t put the pieces together, or they didn’t want to. So he got away with it for years.

Now, Thomas is poised to accept responsibility for his crimes. He is scheduled to plead guilty on rape and abduction charges in Prince William County on Tuesday for the Halloween attacks and in Loudoun County on Nov. 30 for a 2001 rape in Leesburg, law enforcement officials said. Thomas faces the possibility of several life terms in prison.

Thomas began his conversations with The Post with a lie. He blamed the crimes on an alter ego named “Erwin” — a character he told his family and police about after his arrest in March 2011. But Thomas eventually admitted that he was faking a split personality and that Erwin was just a name he gave to his problem.

Thomas met with psychiatrists for months as his defense attorneys prepared for an insanity defense — an argument that would center on Thomas not knowing right from wrong at the time of the rapes or having irresistible urges. But late last month, his attorneys informed the court that they would not pursue that defense.

 

By , November 10, 2012 (Washington Post)