UKG Workforce Activity Report: August Shift Work Acceleration Withers Amid Surge of Summer Vacations, Delta Variant

August 31, 2021, LOWELL, Mass., and WESTON, Fla.

National Overview:
The UKG Workforce Activity Report for August 2021 shows workplace activity as measured by high-frequency employee shift work data1 declined by 2.4% — a larger decline than experienced in August 2020 (-0.3%) and August 2019 (0.0%). UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) believes this may indicate a regression in job creation, leading to a less robust August employment report than seen in recent months.

Additionally, for the second consecutive month, states that removed pandemic-related unemployment benefits in June failed to grow workforce activity at the same rate as the states that maintained them, a strong indication that removing the benefits nationwide in September is unlikely to spur meaningful job growth.

Dave Gilbertson, vice president, UKG
“Employee vacations and scaled-back, summertime business operations make August a historically difficult month to situate within the larger employment landscape. This year was no different: The seasonal slowdown led to a national decline in shift work in August, although it’s worth noting the largest decline occurred in the Southeast — where we’re watching the consequences of becoming a delta variant hotspot. While shift work volume levels in late August suggest we may be turning an optimistic corner, any fall-time acceleration in workforce activity may be in jeopardy if COVID-19 case numbers continue to approach winter 2020 levels.”

Recovery Scale:
The UKG Workforce Recovery Scale — which compares shift activity with pre-pandemic levels — sits at 84.7 in August, down compared with 86.3 in July.

Region Snapshot:
The Southeast region saw the most significant shift volume contraction in August:

  • Southeast2: -3.7%
  • Midwest3: -2.5%
  • West4: -2.4%
  • Northeast5: -1.2%

Business Size:
Businesses across all size segments experienced disruptions to workforce activity:

  • Fewer than 100 employees: -2.4%
  • 101-500: -2.2%
  • 501-1,000: -2.4%
  • 1,001-2,500: -2.9%
  • 2,501-5,000: -0.2%
  • More than 5,000: -3.0%

Industry Analysis:
A nationwide skilled labor shortage continues to hinder meaningful recovery in critical frontline sectors:

  • Healthcare: -3.4%
  • Services and distribution: -3.4%
  • Manufacturing: -1.7%
  • Retail, hospitality, and food service: -1.6%

The UKG Workforce Activity Report is a high-frequency index used to anticipate employment growth and job creation earlier than traditional indicators allow. With a sample of 3.3 million employees across 35,000 organizations of all sizes, the UKG Workforce Activity Report uses the number of shifts being worked to determine the current and future health of the U.S. economy.

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 13,000 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: Southeast is defined as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Footnote 3: Midwest is defined as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

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

Footnote 5: Northeast is defined as Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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