Economy Puts Vacations at Risk for Nearly Half of Americans

empty vacation
empty vacation

A growing inclination among Americans to cancel or change their vacation plans appears to be a sign that the slowing economy, stalled employment growth, and perhaps high gas prices are taking a toll on consumer confidence.

A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive for online jobs and career community site Glassdoor found that 45% of workers who have taken or plan to take a vacation this summer "would reduce or cancel their plans to save money if the economy continues its volatility." Adults 18 to 34 are slightly more likely to curtail plans. Perhaps they believe they have more years ahead of them to travel than older people do.

Another conclusion of the poll is that people who are on vacation aren't really "on vacation" in some cases. One is eight said they are expected to do some work while away, and almost one in five is expected to be available if something critical comes up at work. "The uncertainty in the market continues to weigh on employee confidence, so it's no surprise that the recent volatility might impact summer travel plans," said Robert Hohman, co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor.

The data shows once again how a rapidly weakening consumer economy can collapse in upon itself. Travel is one of the largest industries in the U.S.: CNBC recently reported that "Some 13.2 million people work in the hospitality and leisure sector, with another 381,831 employed by airlines. Employment is not back to pre-recession levels." Cutbacks in travel can cost the jobs of employees in those sectors, and more layoffs undermine travel activity in the future.


The Glassdoor data may support another theory about the economy. Businesses have been attempting to get more out of fewer workers. "Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 1.8 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2011. The gain in productivity reflects increases of 3.2 percent in output and 1.4 percent in hours worked," the Labor Department reported on June 2. The trend is an ongoing one. Businesses concerned about profits place pressure on current workforces. And, people are almost certainly less likely to quit because of the burdens. New jobs are so hard to find.

An employer who can get employees to work on through their vacations has by definition made those workers more productive. If the workers never take a vacation at all, the employer probably does even better.