WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans took the least amount of vacation time in almost four decades last year, forfeiting billions of dollars in compensation without scoring points with their bosses, according to an industry group analysis released on Tuesday.
The report for the U.S. Travel Association said the average American with paid time off (PTO) used 16 of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, down from an average of 20.3 days off from 1976 to 2000. It added that 169 million days of permanently forfeited U.S. vacation time equated to $52.4 billion in lost benefits.
"By choosing to work instead of taking PTO, employees are essentially working for their employers for free," the analysis said.
The report did not give a reason for the drop in vacation time but the fall coincided with the 2007-2009 recession and a slow economic recovery. An Ipsos/Reuters survey in 2010 found that only 57 percent of Americans used all their vacation time.
Wealthier workers tend to earn more vacation days, and also leave more of it on the table, according to the study. People with an annual income of more than $150,000 failed to use an average of 6.5 vacation days last year, while those with less than $29,000 did not use 3.7 days on average.
Employees who forfeited paid time off do not get more raises or bonuses than those who take all their vacation time. They also report higher levels of stress at work, the survey said.
"America's work martyrs aren't more successful. We need to change our thinking. All work and no play is not going to get you ahead - it's only going to get you more stress," Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement accompanying the report.
The analysis was prepared by Oxford Economics, a forecasting group. It used Labor Department data and a June survey of 1,303 workers by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications in conjunction with Oxford Economics.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Alan Crosby