UKG Workforce Activity Report: Shift Work Growth Remains Stalled in October

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

National Overview:
The UKG Workforce Activity Report for October 2021 shows the total number of shifts worked1 by people at U.S. businesses increased 0.1% for the month. While this is an improvement over shift work declines in August (-2.4% / 235,000 new jobs) and September (-0.1% / 194,000 new jobs), it still lags well behind the strong growth experienced in July (1.1% / 943,000 new jobs), indicating portions of the working-age population continue to elect to delay their return to the workforce. While a recent UKG survey found more than a quarter (26%) of retailers expect holiday season staffing shortages, the retail sector performed strongest in shift growth in October.

Dave Gilbertson, vice president, UKG
“In October, we continued to see a slow, steady return to work. Over the last several weeks, there has been a noticeable acceleration, indicating the potential for a more positive November. Additionally, we’re seeing a rise in job applications on the UKG platform over the last two months, reinforcing this gradual forward movement. However, in the eyes of many people who have yet to reenter the workforce, the conditions haven’t improved enough to warrant widespread return. Labor participation rates have actually been declining for the past two decades — and the pandemic accelerated what was already a slow, steady erosion. To get folks back to work and to fill the record number of job openings that exist across every industry, we must better understand why people were gradually leaving the workforce before the pandemic and take urgent action to address the institutional and cultural challenges driving workers away in the first place.”

Industry Analysis:
Ahead of the holiday shopping season, the retail sector represents a lone bright spot:

  • Healthcare: -0.2%
  • Manufacturing: -0.1%
  • Services and distribution: 0.3%
  • Retail, hospitality, and food service: 1.2%

Region Snapshot:
For the first time in 2021, the Northeast has experienced three straight months of declining shift work:

  • Northeast2: -1.2%
  • Midwest3: 0.7%
  • West4: 0.7%
  • Southeast5: 1.3%

Business Size:
Larger businesses continue to grow at faster rates than smaller businesses:

  • Fewer than 100 employees: 0.0%
  • 101-500: -0.8%
  • 501-1,000: 1.4%
  • 1,001-2,500: -0.7%
  • 2,501-5,000: -1.3%
  • More than 5,000: 5.4%

Recovery Scale:
The UKG Workforce Recovery Scale — which compares shift activity with pre-pandemic levels — increased 0.8 points to 86.0 in October.

The UKG Workforce Activity Report is a high-frequency index that anticipates 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 utilizes changes in shift work trends to gauge the current and future employment outlook.

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

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