Workforce activity and economic health: Insights on COVID-19's impact

Looking at workforce activity data on mobile device

At this point it's safe to say that COVID-19 has consumed a lot of our waking hours, especially in the case of HR and payroll professionals. In fact, I'd guess that at this point we may all even be getting tired of hearing about the pandemic, even though its impacts are still being felt and new changes are on the horizon because of it as we set strategies for our businesses reopening. But I've got something new to fit in among all the contact tracing, PPE, remote work, social distancing, and other terms filling your mind, and I think you'll want to hear it: just by virtue of what you do every day with your HR and payroll activities, you've made a difference.

How, you might ask? Well, it's something that's hard to see when you're on the ground in the thick of your daily tasks, but every activity you manage produces it, and when it all gets gathered together it becomes much bigger than people clocking in for a shift, new hires being onboarded, or a paycheck getting sent out correctly. That's right, I'm talking about people data. And when we aggregate all that workforce activity and look at the big picture, it can show us some striking things about our economic situation and how COVID-19 has affected it.

At Kronos and Ultimate, we're in the unique position where we can show how the data our customers have captured in their HCM systems translates into a picture of US economic health – and even could be starting to reveal a light at the end of the tunnel. To do this, every week we've been publishing our Workforce Activity Report tracking information from approximately 30,000 US businesses and the 3.2 million employees who work for them. Here are some highlights of what we've learned.

What workforce activity teaches us

To connect the dots between the massive efforts HR and payroll professionals have been putting in and the overall economic climate they've had to deal with over the past few months, Kronos and Ultimate looked at anonymized and aggregated workplace data and focused on several specific areas:

  • Time punches: Looking at when employees clock in and out is a consistent way to track how many people are working hourly shifts, which can indicate how many businesses are closed or operating at a reduced capacity and when that starts to change based on reopening efforts.
  • Shifts worked regionally and by industry: Dividing up the 925 million time punches we've tracked so far by region, state, and industry shows where impacts are heaviest and where increases or decreases show recovery or further downturns.
  • New hires and terminations: Seeing how many employees are being hired or terminated shows us the levels of restrictions businesses have had to put themselves under to endure COVID-19, such as hiring budget freezes, furloughs, and layoffs, and indicates when these restrictions may be starting to loosen.
  • Pay statements generated: Tracking the money being paid out to employees helps put a monetary value on the economic impact we've all seen and helps support our data on shifts worked with further data that should correlate with it.

Conclusion: What you do matters

Even when we've had to make hard decisions to keep our businesses running, those decisions have helped to shed light on the magnitude of this unprecedented situation. Kronos and Ultimate sincerely thank all the HR and payroll folks who have struggled hard to keep the lights on and are now playing instrumental roles in bringing employees back to work. If you'd like to keep track of our workforce activity findings, we're publishing the latest data every week. We hope it helps you decide the next best course of action for your organization.

See the latest workforce activity data