An Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S.

Executive Summary

Nearly three-quarters of all American workers earn paid time off including vacation time and personal days. However, most do not use all of the time they have earned. Project: Time Off commissioned a study conducted by Oxford Economics to better understand why employees do not take paid time off and how the U.S. economy and a range of industries would benefit if workers used more of the leave they have earned.

Americans fail to use 429 million vacation days every year. If American workers used all of their available time off, the U.S. economy could reap an additional $160 billion in total business sales each year, supporting 1.2 million new American jobs. Furthermore, this additional economic activity would generate more than $21 billion in taxes.

429 million vacation days go unused each year.


The primary research for this analysis was based on an online survey regarding amount of time available and expectations for usage in 2013 fielded from September 17-October 5, 2013. Sample included 971 employees, 700 who receive paid time off as part of their benefits package. Results were projected to the U.S. employment base by industry sector using BLS totals. Impact of spending quantified using IMPLAN economic impact model for the U.S. to calculate jobs and tax impacts.

Key Findings

Despite Americans’ widely held view that using the leave they have earned delivers personal and professional benefits, Americans are leaving time on the table. This unused leave takes a heavy toll on American companies, communities, and our economy.

Nearly three in four employees (72%) receive some form of time off. Private-sector workers and particularly those at small companies are least likely to earn PTO at 69 percent and 59 percent, respectively. However, the share of government workers who earn some form of PTO is higher than average at 89 percent.

In 2013, more than four in ten (42%) employees finished the year with unused time off. For the entire workforce, this underutilization of leave totals 429 million unused days. If workers took more of their earned leave, the economy would benefit from 1.2 million new jobs and an additional $52 billion in earned income. Furthermore, this additional economic activity would generate more than $21 billion in taxes, including $11.4 billion in federal, $4.1 billion in state, and $5.5 billion in local taxes. If employees would take just one more day of earned leave each year, the economy would benefit to the tune of $73 billion.


Note: Project: Time Off recently released new research that updates some of the facts and figures in this resource. See how they’ve changed in our new report, The State of American Vacation.