Employee absenteeism hits 10-year low

The median rates of unscheduled employee absences averaged 0.6 percent of scheduled worker days per month through 2011, which is down from 0.8 percent in 2010 and 0.7 percent in 2009, according to an employer survey by Bloomberg BNA.

This rate represents a 10-year low for the survey when absence rates have been as high as 1.3 percent or more between from 1985 and 2006.

As the holidays hit, absence rates did not increase from the third to fourth quarter, the survey finds. In fact, median monthly absence rates in the fourth quarter averaged 0.6 percent of scheduled work days. This marks steady absence rates in the first and third quarters and is down just slightly from 0.7 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

While the survey found historic lows in 2009, turnover rebounded in 2010 and stabilized at the same level in 2011. On average, voluntary median monthly separation rates hit 0.7 percent of employers' workforces for each month in 2011. This is unchanged from levels recorded in 2010 but up from 0.5 percent in 2009.

The survey’s turnover rates were only one-tenth of a point higher in the second quarter of 2011 than in 2010 but were the same in the first, third and fourth quarters. Separation rates grew from 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 0.7 percent in the first and second quarters of 2011, which were followed by a jump to 0.9 percent in the third quarter and a decline to 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, although this is typical of seasonal patterns. The 0.9 percent separation rates also fell to 0.7 percent in October and 0.5 percent in November and December.

The survey also reveals that year-over-year absence rates experienced a slight increase among western states and organizations with 500 to 999 employees; however, year-over-year absence rates were down in all other parts of the country, work force sizes and surveyed industries.

Organizations with 1,000 to 2,499 employees and health care institutions faced the largest declines in absence rates, the survey shows. Manufacturing firms saw absence rates through December 2011 fall from 0.8 percent to 0.6 percent compared to the same period one year ago.

According to the survey, monthly regional absence rates from 2010 to 2011 were down from 0.9 to 0.8 percent in the Northeast, from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent in the South and from 0.8 percent to 0.6 percent in the North Central states. Only the West experienced a declining trend from 0.6 percent to 0.8 percent.

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