Think you're working harder, smarter and putting in more hours these days?

Maybe you are, says Utah economist Jeff Thredgold, but whether all of us are depends on whom you talk to and which study you believe.In his weekly publication "Tea Leaf," Thredgold, president of Thredgold Economic Associates and consultant to Zions Bank, notes that a study made a few years ago by Harvard economist Juliet Schor, shocked the business world by claiming the average American worked 163 more hours in 1990 than in 1970 - very nearly a month of additional work.

But the extra burden was not evenly divided between the sexes, Schor found. Confirming the concept of the "superwoman" syndrome of the past three decades, Schor's study said that while men worked an extra 2.5 weeks in 1990 over 1970, women worked a whopping 7.5 additional weeks.

Maybe so, says Thredgold, but that doesn't square with a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study that says the average workweek has shortened by five hours since the 1950s. Moreover, the Labor Department study includes paid vacations and paid time off for holidays and sick leave as "work," suggesting that we spend even less time working than people did 40 years ago.

So who's right? Are we working harder or less hard than our parents? Maybe both, depending on how you define work.

The government study counts only hours "on the job," says Thredgold, while Schor's includes as work such activities as rearing children and house cleaning, a finding that will get no argument from those who engage in such activities.

But both studies fail to take note of the way the economy has evolved over the past four decades from manufacturing to service jobs, says Thredgold.

"This shift potentially provides more time for employees to be `on the job' but engaged in non-work activities, including surfing the Internet, chatting with associates or talking on the telephone with friends."

Obviously, he notes, such things are a lot tougher to manage on an assembly line than sitting at a computer terminal.

But whether we're working harder and longer or not, Thredgold says it's clear that many of us are devoting more time than our forebears to recreation, travel and other leisure activities.

He cites the expansion of sports franchises, increase of recreational vehicle ownership, including boats, and the rise in affordable air travel for allowing us more options for our free time.

Citing a study of work vs. leisure published by Investor's Business Daily, Thredgold notes that attendance at professional sporting events nearly doubled from 1970 to 1994 while annual attendance at symphony and opera performances nearly tripled.

U.S. per capita spending on overall recreation went from $501 million to $1.54 billion, and the number of people taking sea cruises soared from 500,000 to 4.4 million. The number of recreational boats owned by Americans moved up from 8.8 million to 16.6 million, and manufacturers shipped 226,300 RVs in 1994 compared to 30,300 in 1970.