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

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.

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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
Northeast 4: 3.5% contraction
Southeast 5: 3.6% contraction
West 6: 3.8% contraction

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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 www.ukg.com/workforceactivityreport.

Supporting Resources

  • Note to editors: Please refer to this as the “UKG Workforce Activity Report: January 2021.” Visit www.ukg.com/workforceactivityreport to view all reports.
  • Follow UKG on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. Learn more about UKG.
  • UKG CEO Aron Ain transforms employee engagement into a growth strategy in “WorkInspired: How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work.”

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