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Americans share the dream of traveling in retirement, second only to time with family and friends.
What is travel for the average American? It’s a trip to visit aunts and uncles or spend a few days at a theme park. It’s touring our national parks, miles of highway and seeing our nation’s iconic sites. It’s some of our best pictures and happiest Facebook posts, but it’s also much, much more.
Time Off in America
More than 11 percent of U.S. employees work 50+ hours a week, giving the United States one of the longest work weeks among industrialized nations. It’s also true that the United States is one of the few industrialized countries that doesn’t legally guarantee paid time off (PTO).
Nonetheless, even at small, private companies, six in 10 workers earn PTO, according to a new study by Oxford Economics surveying nearly 1,000 U.S. employees. In fact, nearly three in four workers overall earn some kind of time off, with an average benefit of 20 days a year. Add all that together, and Americans rack up more than 2.9 billion paid days off each year.
However, that’s what they could take, not what they do take. More than 40 percent of U.S. employees leave a significant amount of their time off unused each year. In fact, the study found that in 2013, Americans left 429 million days of their paid time off unused.
The Day Off Deficit
According to a new study of nearly 1,000 U.S. workers, while three in four employees earn paid time off (PTO) as part of job benefits, they left 429 million of those days off unused in 2013. Breaking those numbers down, Oxford Economics found that workers who didn’t use all their PTO left more than a week of their time off untouched.
What accounts for this “day off deficit” in the U.S. workforce? Partly, it’s attitudes. Thirteen percent of employees say they sense their managers would disapprove of their using all their PTO. Nearly 20 percent of managers say employees who use all their PTO are less dedicated, and 13 percent say those employees are less likely to get promoted.
Even so, the biggest barrier to using time off is workload. A third of employees reported they have too much work to use all their PTO, and 13 percent say they skip taking time off because of the work that would stack up while they’re away.
What It Means for You
New research by Oxford Economics finds that 42 percent of American workers left a significant amount of their earned time off untouched in 2013, adding up to 429 million days of unused vacation days.
If you’re among them, you already know what this can mean in terms of job performance. Six in ten employees say fully using PTO is important to mental health. Nearly three-quarters report returning to work refreshed and recharged after taking PTO, and more than 40 percent say they’re more focused.
What you may not realize is how America’s “day off deficit” affects you economically, specifically in terms of travel associated with time off. Of course, not all people travel on their time off, but adjusting for those who don’t, researchers found that our annual unused PTO still adds up to a $160-billion hole in the American economy in terms of total business sales.
Framed another way, America’s current day off deficit is costing the country 1.2 million jobs and more than $21 billion in tax revenue, including $9.6 billion for states and local communities. Just by using their earned time off, Americans would infuse our economy with an extra $52 billion in earned income across all business industries.