Workers appear to be shifting their summer vacations earlier  

Nich Tremper

Many workers begin thinking about summer vacation and extended periods away from work following Memorial Day each year. This makes June the first full month of summer for many, and with schools closing and the sun out more, June could present the perfect opportunity for workers to take time off of work to enjoy longer days. However, that is not happening this summer. 

This year, we took a look at data from over 300,000 small and medium-sized businesses to understand early summer vacation habits. 

Key Findings: 

  • The share of workers taking a vacation decreased from 8.7% in June 2023 to 7.8% in June 2024. However, more workers took vacation in May 2024 (8.3%) than in May 2023 (7.4%). 
  • The average June 2024 vacation was 17% shorter than the average June 2023 vacation. But May 2024 vacations were, on average, 5% longer than in May 2023.
  • The professional and community services sectors had the highest share of workers taking a vacation in June 2024. But all industries saw a decrease in the share of workers taking vacation.
  • Gen Z workers were both the least likely to take time away from work in June or May 2024. Millennials (ages 28-43) and Gen X (ages 44-59) are among the most likely workers to take vacation in May or June.
  • Workers in almost every state took less vacation in June 2024 compared to June 2023. The northeast is a hub for many professional services firms, and workers in this industry were among the most likely to take vacation in June 2024. 

The share of workers taking vacation in June decreased by 11% between 2024 and 2023, and the average number of hours decreased by 17%. 

Bar chart showing share of workers who took a vacation by month

In June 2024 7.8% of workers took at least one hour of vacation time, which is an 11% decrease from the same month last year (8.7% in June 2023). Workers were also less likely to take a vacation in June 2024 than in May 2024. However, workers were much more likely to take vacation in May 2024 as compared to May 2023. In May 2023 7.4% of workers took a vacation, but in May 2024 nearly 8.3% of workers took a vacation – a nearly 12% increase.

Bar chart showing average number of vacation hours

Not only were workers less likely to take vacations in June 2024 compared to June 2023, but workers who used paid time off (PTO) in June 2024 took less time off than in June 2023. On average, workers who took any vacation in June 2024 used 17% less PTO than they did in June 2023. Workers took similar levels of vacation in May and June 2024.

Some of this shift to earlier summers may be due to increasing summer heat. June 2024 brought a lot of heat to much of the U.S., which could have encouraged people to cancel existing days off or to not take more impromptu PTO days that would otherwise be spent outside. Apart from the June 2024 heat wave, the 2020s have represented historical levels of heat wave frequency, intensity, and duration. Workers may be in the process of shifting to vacation schedules during more comfortable periods in order to capitalize on their time away. 

All sectors saw a decrease in the share of workers who took a vacation in June 2024 compared to 2023

Bar chart showing share of workers who took a vacation by sector

For the past two years, workers in the professional services industry were most likely to take a vacation in June, with more than 1-in-10 taking some time off from work. However, all industries saw a decrease in the total share of workers taking a vacation in June. This includes the personal services sector, which includes tourism, leisure, and restaurant firms. Workers in this industry likely have less opportunity to take time away from work during the summer months, which might explain their comparatively lower vacation shares. 

Interestingly, workers in each of these industries took more time off in May 2024 than in May 2023 and June 2024, perhaps suggesting a shift toward an earlier vacation season.

Gen Z workers are among the least likely to take vacation in June or May

Bar chart showign share of workers who took vacation in month by generation

GenZ workers (under 27) were among the least likely to take vacation in May or June of either 2023 or 2024, while Millennials (ages 28-43) and Gen X (ages 44-59) are among the most likely workers to take vacation. 

Millennial or Gen X may be taking more PTO because they are tied to taking time off while school is out of session. The above chart includes February 2023 and February 2024 in order to provide a comparison when there are no widespread school closures. All generations are less likely to take vacation during this time, but Gen Z and Baby Boomers remain the least likely to do so. 

There are several reasons that might explain why Gen Z workers are less likely to take vacation. Many Gen Z workers began their career in the midst of Covid-19 lockdowns, and may be more adept and willing to work remotely while traveling. Additionally, in many industries and firms, vacation time is tied to tenure and experience, and Gen Z workers may not have had the opportunity to accrue the same amount of PTO as Millenial and Gen X workers. Finally, folks may be less inclined to take vacation early in their careers as they are developing skills and rapport with their employers and colleagues. This “fear of missing out” at work might drive young workers to not use vacation time to which they are otherwise entitled.

bar chart showing average number of vacation hours taken in month by generation

The above chart shows a similar story as the share of workers taking vacation, the average Gen Z worker taking vacation in a given month takes about the same amount of time away or slightly less than older workers. Workers who took time off in June 2024 took less time than they did in June 2023 across all age groups, while workers who took time off in May 2024 took more time off than in May 2023.

Workers in every state took less vacation in June 2024 than in June 2023

The trend that employees took less vacation time in June 2024 than June 2023 was evident in every U.S. state. The left chart shows that the average worker who took any vacation in every state took 7% to 34% less time away in June 2024 than in June 2023. Workers in the northeast had the smallest difference in the average number of hours taken between June 2023 and June 2024. This means that their vacation schedules in June 2024 were the closest to June 2023, which may not be surprising. The northeast is a hub for many professional services firms, and workers in this industry were among the most likely to take vacation in June 2024 even though their rates of vacation were down from June 2023.

Compared to May 2023, the average worker who took vacation in May 2024 took more time off. This is broadly shared across workers throughout the country. States with a steeper decline in June PTO hours (i.e. the lighter orange states) appear to be states where the average worker who took PTO increased the total number of hours they took in May by a larger percent. This could mean that workers in 2024 started their vacation season earlier than before. Initial TSA screening numbers and forecasts suggested that Memorial Day weekend 2024 was among the highest traveled, suggesting that many folks were taking time off from work.

Conclusion

Workers generally took less time away from work in June 2024 compared to June 2023, but took more time away in May 2024 compared to May 2023. This increase in May travel is backed up by recent data from AAA, suggesting this year’s total number of Memorial Day travelers is up 4% over last year and comes close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million travelers. All of this suggests a shift wherein workers are moving their summer vacations a bit earlier. If these trends continue businesses should expect changes to when their employees request vacation, which may change coverage expectations and staff availability at new times in the calendar. Encouraging employees to alert their managers about vacations as early as possible may help businesses in this planning.

Nich Tremper Nich Tremper is an Economist at Gusto, researching entrepreneurship and the small business life cycle in the modern economy. Nich has worked in research offices in the federal government and financial service industries, studying small business outcomes and their roles in local economies. He holds a Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, where he researched local government business expansion efforts. Nich currently lives in Winston-Salem, NC.
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