UKG Workforce Activity Report: January Shift Contraction Marks First Time Shifts Have Declined in Consecutive Months During Pandemic

February 2, 2021, LOWELL, Mass. and WESTON, Fla.

National Overview:

According to the U.S. Workforce Activity Report from UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), total shift work1 declined 3% in January2. This marks the first time during the pandemic that shift work declined in consecutive months—though the January decrease can be attributed, in part, to annual seasonal fluctuations in the workforce that occur following December.

By Business Size:

While smaller businesses continue to struggle, larger ones—especially concentrated in retail—experienced larger-than-usual declines in shift volume as they wound down temporary shift increases needed to support seasonal holiday traffic:

  • Fewer than 100 employees: -3.6%
  • 101-500: -2.6%
  • 501-1,000: -1.6%
  • 1,001-2,500: -1%
  • 2,501-5,000: -5.6%
  • More than 5,000: -6.8%

Industry Analysis:

Public sector was the only key industry where shift volume remained relatively flat, driven largely by faculty and students returning to campus in higher education:

  • Public sector: 0.1% growth
  • Healthcare: 1.2% contraction
  • Manufacturing: 3.3% contraction
  • Services and distribution: 3.7% contraction
  • Retail, hospitality, and food service: 6% contraction

Region Snapshot:

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

  • Midwest3: 1.9% contraction
  • Northeast4: 3.5% contraction
  • Southeast5: 3.6% contraction
  • West6: 3.8% contraction

Recovery Scale:

The UKG Workforce Recovery Scale—a measure of shift work losses and gains during the COVID-19 pandemic—is now at 84.9, up 0.6 points from December but still down from a high of 87.1 in November and September. By contrast, the Workforce Recovery Scale bottomed out at 66.8 in April.


Dave Gilbertson, vice president, UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)
“It’s a new year, but the problems for people are the same. There’s simply not enough shift work to warrant extensive hiring to get more folks back to work. As is common each January, those lucky enough to snag a seasonal job over the holidays have come off the payrolls, which naturally slows the recovery further. This period will hopefully mark the second—and last—time we’ve hit ‘bottom’ in this recovery, but it’s simply too soon to tell. Smaller businesses especially will need more confidence—or incentive—to hire again.”


The UKG Workforce Activity Report analyzes high frequency shift data for 3.2 million employees at 30,000 organizations to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on U.S workplaces. It is current through January 31, 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’ 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: January 2021 is defined as the week ending January 31, 2021. This report contains seasonally adjusted data to account for fluctuations around Christmas, New Years, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. holidays.

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

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

Footnote 6: West is defined as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

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