It’s easy to let your head explode looking at new numbers showing how much time Congress spent in session in 2013. The House broke a record this year, working the fewest hours in a nonelection year since 2005, at an average of just about 28 hours a week (or 942 total), according to The New York Times. The Senate spent just 99 days voting this year, near a 1991 low of 95 days.
When you look at how many hours comparable Americans on average spend working or on work related activities, Congress’s record seems pretty bad on its face. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, employed people ages 25-54 with children spent 8.8 hours per average work day on work or work related activities in 2012. For a five-day week, that averages out to 44 hours a week. Of course, not all Americans just work on weekdays. For all employed Americans, 34 percent worked on weekends in 2012.
That sure makes it seem like working in Congress is a pretty cushy gig. But that would ignore the vast amount of drudgery your representatives and senators have to put up with off the floor.
National Journal‘s Alex Seitz-Wald lays out the numbers: House members work 70 hours per week on average when they’re in D.C., and nearly 60 hours per week when they’re not, according to a survey by the Congressional Management Foundation.
Here’s how members spend their time:
The “personal time” and “family/friends” slivers are unquestionably bleak. That’s especially true compared with other Americans. Employed Americans ages 25-54 with children spend nearly a quarter of their average 2012 work day on either leisure and sports, household activities, eating and drinking, or caring for others. At best, members of Congress don’t even come close to touching that.
So while Congress isn’t really spending all that much time doing that actual work of passing (or blocking) legislation, don’t start rushing to get that plush congressional job quite yet.