Absenteeism ranks among the top 10 reasons for losing one’s job, but at a time when unemployment remains at 8.3 percent, American workers are keeping their noses to the grindstone.
Absenteeism last year surpassed record lows reported in 2009 at the height of the recession, according to a survey of 344 U.S. employers conducted by Bloomberg BNA. Through 2011, the average rates of unscheduled employee absences, which included long-term absences and partial days out, averaged 0.6 percent of scheduled worker days per month. This is a decrease from the 0.8 percent levels recorded in 2010 and the 0.7 percent in 2009, Bloomberg BNA reported.
Absenteeism is at a 10-year low and well below the absence rates of 1.3 percent or more observed between 1985-2006.
Perhaps the challenging job market accounts for absentee rates not rising in 2011 from the third to the fourth quarter with the onset of winter holiday season. Average monthly absence rates in the fourth quarter averaged 0.6 percent of scheduled work days, unchanged from absence rates in the first and third quarters and down only slightly from the 0.7 percent rate observed in the second quarter.
The survey also foung that year-over-year absence rates increased slightly in the Western states and in organizations with 500 to 999 employees but were down in all other regions of the country, all other categories of workforce size, and across all surveyed industry sectors.
The largest declines in absence rates were observed in organizations with1,000 to 2,499 employees and in health care institutions.
In manufacturing firms, absence rates through December 2011 declined two tenths of a point (from 0.8 percent to 0.6 percent) compared with the same period one year ago.
Regionally, monthly absence rates from 2010 to 2011 were down one-tenth of a point in the Northeast and two-tenths of a point in the Southern and North Central states. Only the West bucked this general declining trend, with a two-tenths of a point increase in absences.
American workers must be made of sterner stuff. A recent study found that tens of thousands of civil servants in Northern Ireland suffered from work stress during an economic downturn, and that the number of employees taking time off increased by 25 percent during a prolonged economic downturn.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.