Solar Eclipse May Cost Employers $694 Million in Work Disruption

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A total solar eclipse will sweep across 14 states on Monday, August 21, costing employers $694 million and taking its place among special events such as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that most disrupt the workplace.

The findings were published by Chicago-based outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas and based on an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, fully or partially blocking the sun. Monday’s event will be the first of its kind in the continental U.S. since 1979.

The eclipse will happen in the middle of the workday, to the consternation of many employers. Challenger Gray estimates that workers will need about 20 minutes to gather their viewing equipment and find a place to watch the two- to two-and-a-half-minute total solar eclipse event.

According to the most recent BLS American Time Use Survey in 2016, 82.8% of employed people worked on an average weekday. Additionally, according to the most recent data on flexible schedules from the BLS taken in 2004, 14.8% of the employed worked a shift other than a day shift.

Given average hourly wage data and the number of full-time employed workers age 16 and above, the cost to employers could reach almost $700 million nationally.

The cost to states and metropolitan areas directly in the path of the eclipse — starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina — where traffic is expected to increase substantially, could see almost $200 million in lost productivity combined.

“Since this is happening over the lunch hours, the financial impact is minimal,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger Gray. “It’s going to be pretty difficult to get people to keep working when the solar eclipse is happening, and preventing employees from viewing it will probably do more to harm morale than to increase productivity.”

By the Numbers
  • 87,307,940: Estimated number of workers who will be at work during the eclipse.
  • $7.95: Cost of 20 minutes of unproductive time per worker due to the eclipse based on the average hourly wage of $23.86.
  • 123,761,000: Full-time workers age 16 and over, according to the BLS Current Population Survey 2016.
  • 14.8%: Percentage of workers who work a shift other than the day shift, including evening, night, irregular shifts or rotating shifts, according to the BLS data on flexible and night shifts in 2004.
  • 82.8%: Percentage of employees who work on an average weekday, according to the BLS American Time Use Survey 2016.