UKG Workforce Activity Report: Omicron Variant Slows Economic Momentum in December
The UKG Workforce Activity Report for December 2021 shows the total number of shifts worked1 by people at U.S. businesses decreased 1.7% in December. While shift volume typically remains flat or declines slightly preceding the December holidays — -0.8% in December 2019 and -0.3% in December 2020 — this year’s dip is larger than usual following the emergence of the omicron variant. The slowing trend continued through the second half of the month, which also showed above-average declines.
Dave Gilbertson, vice president, UKG
“The data shows a strong downward shift starting in mid-December, which coincides with the emergence of the omicron variant throughout the U.S. Unfortunately, these reduced activity levels have persisted, with the last week of the year showing weaker performance than historically experienced. Before this sharp drop-off, workforce activity was showing strength through early December. This was a continuation of growth that started in the fall and was further bolstered by seasonal retail hiring, which started a bit later than usual. We’ll closely watch the impact of omicron, as it has the potential to reduce both the number of shifts available and the number of hourly employees willing to work them.”
Most industries experienced weakened performance from November to December, and, with the emergence of omicron, most performed below December 2020 levels:
- Retail, hospitality, and food service: 2.1% (1.3% in Dec. 2020)
- Healthcare: -1.0% (-0.2% in Dec. 2020)
- Manufacturing: -2.4% (-2.8% in Dec. 2020)
- Services and distribution: -2.7% (1.5% in Dec. 2020)
- Public sector and non-profit: -4.4% (4.8% in Dec. 2020)
Negative growth was experienced across all regions:
- Northeast2: -0.1%
- Southeast3: -1.3%
- Midwest4: -2.2%
- West5: -3.6%
In December, small and mid-sized businesses reduced shifts at a greater rate than larger businesses:
- Fewer than 100 employees: -1.7%%
- 101-500: -2.1%
- 501-1,000: -4.7%
- 1,001-2,500: -0.9%
- 2,501-5,000: -0.1%
- More than 5,000: -2.5%
The UKG Workforce Recovery Scale — which compares shift work activity with pre-pandemic levels — decreased 1.5 points in December to 85.5/100.
The UKG Workforce Activity Report is a high-frequency index that anticipates U.S. job creation and gauges economic growth by analyzing the number of shifts worked weekly across a sample of 3.8 million employees at 35,000+ organizations.
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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: Northeast is defined as Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Footnote 3: Southeast is defined as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Footnote 4: Midwest is defined as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Footnote 5: West is defined as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
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