December UKG Workforce Activity Report: Indicators of Strengthening Recovery Remain Elusive to Cap Off Historic 2020

January 5, 2021, LOWELL, Mass., and WESTON, Fla.

National Overview:

According to the U.S. Workforce Activity Report from UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), shift work1 declined 3.2% in December2. While this is only the second monthly decline since April’s state shutdowns—albeit the largest— it is heavily influenced by the seasonal nature of work in December. More telling: Shift work increased 1.9% between the weeks ending November 15 and December 13, which is the timeframe utilized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to generate the December unemployment report. While this is more positive than November’s survey window, it still lags significantly behind the gains made prior to August.

By Business Size:

The total volume of shifts worked declined across all business sizes:

  • Fewer than 100 employees: -3.4%
  • 101-500: -2.8%
  • 501-1,000: -5.2%
  • 1,001-2,500: -2.1%
  • 2,501-5,000: -2.4%
  • More than 5,000: -2.5%

Industry Analysis:

Total December shift trends by industry:

  • Healthcare: 1.7% contraction
  • Manufacturing: 2.0% contraction
  • Retail, hospitality, and food service: 2.7% contraction
  • Services and distribution: 4.1% contraction
  • Public sector: 6.6% contraction

Region Snapshot:

Shift work volume declined across all four U.S. regions in December:

  • Northeast3: 7.9% contraction
  • West4: 4.6% contraction
  • Southeast5: 1.0% contraction
  • Midwest6: 0.8% contraction

Recovery Scale:

The UKG Workforce Recovery Scale7—a measure of shift work losses and gains during the COVID-19 pandemic—now stands at 84.3, down 2.8 points from 87.1 in November. By contrast, the Workforce Recovery Scale bottomed out at 66.8 in April.


Dave Gilbertson, vice president, UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)
“While many hoped the holiday shopping season would power shift work growth through increased demand across the entire ecosystem needed to support December’s annual flurry of consumer spending, that bump never materialized. Limited shift growth during the BLS survey window should yield a net positive jobs report on Friday, though it will pale in comparison to the gains needed to make a dent in what remains a near-historic unemployment crisis.”


The UKG Workforce Activity Report analyzes high frequency shift data for 3.2 million employees at 30,000 U.S. businesses to gauge the impact of COVID-19. It is current through January 3, 2021. For more insights, visit

Supporting Resources

About UKG

At UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), our purpose is people. Built from a merger that created one of the largest cloud companies in the world, UKG believes organizations succeed when they focus on their people. As a leading global provider of HCM, payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions, UKG delivers award-winning Pro, Dimensions, and Ready solutions to help tens of thousands of organizations across geographies and in every industry drive better business outcomes, improve HR effectiveness, streamline the payroll process, and help make work a better, more connected experience for everyone. UKG has more than 12,000 employees around the globe and is known for an inclusive workplace culture. The company has earned numerous awards for culture, products, and services, including consecutive years on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. To learn more, visit


Footnote 1: “Shifts worked” is a total derived from aggregated employee time and attendance data and reflects the number of times that employees, especially those who are paid hourly or must be physically present at a workplace to perform their jobs, “clock in” and “clock out” via a time clock, mobile app, computer, or other device at the beginning and end of each shift.

Footnote 2: December 2020 is defined as the week ending December 20. The remainder of the month is excluded due to the significant impact of December holidays on shift work annually.

Footnote 3: Northeast is defined as Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Footnote 4: West is defined as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Footnote 5: Southeast is defined as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Footnote 6: Midwest is defined as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Footnote 7: The UKG Workforce Recovery Scale and some elements of this report were reforecast in December 2020 to more accurately control fluctuations in the sample created by UKG customer growth, further stabilizing the sample.

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