The number of shifts1 worked by U.S. employees declined for the second consecutive month, decreasing by 0.1% in September, according to the UKG Workforce Activity Report. While another month of shift contraction further delays the employment recovery for millions of people, September marks a significant improvement from August’s 2.4% monthly decline, indicating a stabilization in workplace activity, per the high-frequency data from UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group).
Dave Gilbertson, vice president, UKG
“By most predictions, September was supposed to bring a return of strong economic and workplace activity, as schools reopened fully and unemployment benefits expired. This simply wasn’t the case. Concerns about personal health, as the Delta variant spread, likely prevented many people from rejoining the workforce. As cases decline, we are feeling optimistic about future growth overall, but are closely watching the impact of supply chain disruptions in manufacturing and lackluster activity in the retail sector. With the ongoing labor shortage still in full force, retailers will need to offer more than just higher pay to entice people to staff stores as the holiday shopping season rapidly approaches.”
On the eve of the holiday shopping season, retailers are anticipating the most challenging holiday hiring season (see separate annual UKG retail survey) in memory. September shift work trends illustrate retail’s present struggles:
- Retail, hospitality, and food service: -3.7%
- Healthcare: -0.1%
- Manufacturing: 0.8%
- Services and distribution: 1.1%
For the second consecutive month, the Southeast region saw the most significant shift volume contraction:
- Southeast2: -0.8%
- Midwest3: -0.7%
- Northeast4: -0.5%
- West5: 1.3%
Ongoing labor shortages and supply chain disruptions continue to impact businesses:
- Fewer than 100 employees: 0.3%
- 101-500: -0.6%
- 501-1,000: 2.6%
- 1,001-2,500: -2.2%
- 2,501-5,000: 0.0%
- More than 5,000: -10.6%
The UKG Workforce Recovery Scale — which compares shift activity with pre-pandemic levels — sits at 85.2 in September, effectively flat compared with August.
The UKG Workforce Activity Report is a high-frequency index used to anticipate U.S. job creation earlier than traditional economic indicators. With a sample of 3.3 million employees across 35,000 organizations of all sizes and industries, the report analyzes mid-month shift work trends to gauge current and future employment changes.
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 ukg.com.
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: 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: West is defined as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
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