I propose that for every 1% of structural unemployment, the ‘full time’ work day is reduced by 15 minutes. I think this would do several things. So at Today’s 8.5% unemployment, the working week would be 38 hours, and overtime pay would start at 38 hours a week.
First, employers would need to hire more people as a direct result of this, to cover the gaps in shifts, and to account for the slightly lower productivity. At such a low rate, it would be a very slight extra cost, since only places employing lots and lots of people would need to adjust the number of hourly employees to maintain flow.
Second, it would give a small cash boost to all hourly employees if they work overtime. In a down economic time, this money will either go back out into the US economy (by purchases) or go to debt those employees have, stablizing the system.
Third, with the economic down-turn, it would give people a little more time to bargain hunt, clip coupons, or do other cost-saving measures that are hard to do during a 40 hour week.
I think it would be a simple and useful feedback system into our current economic structure, to help self-regulate during downturns.