Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paid Vacation Available to More than Half of U.S. Workers

Back in April we posted about U.S. workers not using their vacation. The latest release from the BLS American Time Use Survey takes a different angle: Who has access to paid vacation in the first place?

It's the week after Labor Day, which means it's back to work after a long three-day weekend for many
Americans. In fact, some may have skipped out early to squeeze in a four-day end-of-summer bash. But no matter how empty the employee parking lot may have seemed last Friday, paid vacation is far from a universal benefit in the American workplace (Ben Casselman, The Wall Street Journal, “Number of the Week: Millions of Americans Don’t Get Paid Vacations”).

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week, 59 percent of American workers got access to paid vacation in 2011 while 40 percent, or about 55 million people, did not (another 1 percent didn’t know if they had paid vacation). The data are from the American Time Use Survey, an annual survey of about 12,500 Americans conducted by the Census Bureau.

Other studies come up with somewhat different results: A separate set of BLS data, based on a survey of employers rather than employees, found that as of March, 74 percent of civilian workers had access to paid vacation time. One possible explanation for the difference is that the employer survey included only incorporated businesses and therefore didn't cover domestic workers, many self-employed people, and some other employees who might be less likely to get paid time off.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of variation in who gets paid leave in the U.S. According to the Time Use Survey, more educated workers were more likely to get time off: 72 percent of college-educated workers reported getting paid leave, versus 61 percent of those with only a high-school diploma and just 35 percent of high-school dropouts. Public employees (76 percent) were also much more likely to get paid vacation time than their private-sector counterparts (57 percent). Younger workers are much less likely to get paid time off, but there’s relatively little variation once workers hit age 25.

So if you enjoyed a paid holiday on Labor Day, welcome back...and remember that not everyone had the day off.

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