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Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics unveiled the 2012 edition of its annual American Time Use Survey, an overview of what Americans do with every 24 hours. It's an incredible project, involving detailed documentation from thousands of American households. In short, we're working less and watching TV more — especially if we happen to be men.

The bureau's website offers both detailed tables of data (which we used for the graphs below) and an overview of the findings. Being the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overview focuses on details of the workday. Which can be interesting:

In 2012, on days they worked, 23 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Among workers age 25 and over, those with a bachelor's degree or higher were more likely to work at home than were persons with less education — 38 percent of those with a bachelor's degree or higher performed some work at home on days worked compared with 5 percent of those with less than a high school diploma.

But the really good stuff comes in its minute-by-minute assessment of what we do.

Graph No. 1: How American men and women spend an average 24 hours

Let's look at the data from 2012. The column at left is men; at right, women. Mouseover the sections to see what they represent and how many hours each gender worked.

A few things worth noting.

  • Women sleep slightly more, a little over 15 minutes more a day.
  • That may be because they get less leisure time, more than half an hour less.
  • To be fair, men work an hour more (remember, this is for all seven days, so days off drops the daily average) ...
  • … but women spend an extra hour on food preparation and housework.

Again, this is data from 2012, not 1952. How we spend our days doesn't change that much. Leading us to …

Graph No. 2: How this changed over the last decade

In short, it hasn't much. Most categories (all of which are included below) have stayed fairly flat since 2003. Again, mouseover for more information, in this case, presented by year. And this graph includes everyone, regardless of gender.

There are really only two categories in which there have been a significant change. The first is that green line, which represents work. Between 2008 and 2009, the average amount Americans worked each day dropped significantly — thanks to the onset of the recession. The other category that went up was leisure — the thing on which we spend the second-most amount of time each day. (In the gender graph, above, the various components of the leisure category were broken out into their own sections.)

Graph No. 3: The biggest changes

To reinforce the graph above, the biggest changes between 2012 and 2011 were the same as the biggest changes between 2012 and 2003. We isolated the parts of the day in which activity for everyone or just one gender changed by 15 minutes or more between the two years. The left set of graphs are the difference between 2011 and 2012; at right, between 2003 and 2012.

Between 2011 and 2012, men (in blue) spent less time working (far left) and more time on leisure and TV-watching. (Women are watching more TV, too.) But compared to 2003, that's gotten much more severe. Men now work 21 minutes less a day than they did a decade ago, making up nearly the entire difference by watching TV.

Anyway, enough of this. The weekend is here, and you've earned some time off.

Photo: American men, doing their thing. (AP)

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