A new paper by an economist at Princeton, Mark Aguiar, and two at the University of Chicago, Erik Hurst and Loukas Karabarbounis, is out from the National Bureau of Economic Research under the title "Time Use During Recessions." It looks at "how foregone market work hours are allocated to other activities over the business cycle." It concludes "roughly 30% to 40% of the foregone market work hours are allocated to increased home production. Additionally, 30% of the foregone hours are allocated to increased sleep time and increased television watching." Specifically,
roughly two-thirds of the increase of leisure time associated with the decline in market work at the business cycle frequency are concentrated in television watching and sleeping. To the extent the individuals consider recessions to be a period of increased leisure, the bulk of the leisure increase shows up as an increase of time in these two categories. Given the large movements in the time allocated to these two categories, our results suggest that economists need to think hard about how individuals value the marginal time spent watching television or sleeping when computing the welfare costs of business cycles.
"Home production" includes things like cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and gardening.
The people in the study in 2009 to 2010 spent about 18 and a half hours a week watching television, 60 hours a week sleeping, and 30 hours a week engaging in "market work."
When the TV news types said Barack Obama would be good for ratings, I don't think they meant it exactly quite this way.