Update Date: March - 2023
We split the analysis of absence rates published by the BLS in 3 parts, that complement each other. Each section is written in a different web page within which at the top the user can find the links to navigate to the other sections. The 3 comprise of:
This part provides the overall description of the data and shows the historical time series of absence rates and number of full time workers for different age groups, gender, and causes of absence rates. It allows us to put in perspective the analysis of the changes in absence and lost worktime rates, that we observe from 2020 onwards.
This part provides a detailed examination of the changes in absence rates that occurred from 2020 onwards. In particular, we analyse the deviation in absence rates from the 2002-2019 pre-pandemic trend, both in absolute terms and relative terms.
This part provides a detailed examination of the changes in lost worktime rates that occurred from 2020 onwards. We analyse the deviation in lost worktime rates from the 2002-2019 pre-pandemic trend, both in absolute terms and relative terms.
Period: Yearly data from 2002 onwards.
Absences are defined as instances when persons who usually work 35 or more hours a week worked less than 35 hours during the reference week for one of the following reasons: Own illness, injury, or medical problems; child-care problems; other family or personal obligations; civic or military duty; and maternity or paternity leave. Excluded are situations in which work was missed due to vacation or personal days, holiday, labour dispute, and other reasons. For multiple jobholders, absence data refer only to work missed at their main jobs. The absence rate is the ratio of workers with absences to total full-time wage and salary employment.
Lost Worktime is defined as hours absent as a percentage of hours usually worked.
In this section we show the baseline for absence rates for the 25 to 54 age cohort only, as it is the most representative for the population of full time workers in the US. We first show the variation in absence rates by cause, and later by gender. These plots allow us to have an idea of the different effects that need to be taken into consideration when reading into our analysis further below.
The BLS annual average absence data separates the cause of absence the following way:
Illness or Injury: own illness, injury, or medical problems.
Other: other family or personal obligations; civic or military duty; and maternity or paternity leave.
Total = (Illness or Injury) + (Other)
Excluded are situations in which work was missed due to vacation or personal days, holiday, labour dispute, and other reasons.
- We can observe that there was a general declining trend in total absence rates from 2002 to 2019. This was driven by the decline in absence rates due to illness or injury, as the rate of other causes of absence remained almost constant throughout the period.
- Absence rates due to illness or injury dropped from about 2.5% in 2002 to 1.8% in 2019. Absence rates due to other causes remained constant at 1% throughout the period.
- From 2020, absence rates due to illness and injury rose substantially, in particular in 2021 and 2022, while absence rates for other causes remained the same.
As we have established in the previous chart that the main driver for changes in absence rates from 2002 to 2022 was illness and injury, we will now explore the behaviour of absence rates and lost worktime rates for different genders, due to illness and injury only.
The chart on the left shows absence rates due to illness or injury, for workers aged 25 to 54, for men, women and total. The chart on the right plots the equivalent data for lost worktime rates.
- We can observe that the declining trend in absence rates from illness or injury from 2002 to 2019 was similar in both men and women.
- Absence rates due to illness or injury in women are about 1.5 times those of men.
- Similar behaviour is observed in lost worktime rates, with declining rates from 2002 to 2019 and a sudden and sharpe rise from 2020 to 2022.