Despite the harsh winter weather in the first quarter of this year, job absences bucked the typical seasonal pattern by declining slightly rather than increasing over fourth-quarter levels, according to BNA's quarterly survey of employers. Employee absence rates averaged 0.8 percent of scheduled worker days through the first three months of 2010. This figure marks a decline from the previous quarter (0.9 percent) but remains above the 0.6 percent rate of unscheduled absences recorded in the first quarter of 2009, a possible consequence of recent employment gains.

At manufacturing companies, the absence rate was 0.7 percent, up from 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Nonmanufacturing employers reported a three-tenths of a point increase in absences from the first quarter of 2009 (from 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent) as did non-business employers (from 0.9 to 1.2 percent). In contrast to this broad pattern of industry increases, there was a two-tenths of a point decline in year-over year unscheduled first quarter absences in financial institutions (from 1.1 percent to 0.9 percent) and a substantial four-tenths of a point drop in absences within health care organizations (from 0.9 percent to 0.5 percent).

Turnover, or voluntary median monthly separation rates (excluding layoffs, reductions-in-force, and departures of temporary staff), averaged 0.7 percent of employers' workforces per month in the first quarter of 2010. That figure is up two-tenths of a point from the median monthly rate recorded in the first and last quarters of 2009 and all of last year (0.5 percent).

Four consecutive months of increasing nonfarm payroll employment may be contributing to this increase in worker attrition. Growth in payroll employment often goes hand-in-hand with increases in employee turnover. Median monthly first quarter separation rates increased across all surveyed geographic area, in nonmanufacturing and non-business concerns, and in most midsize or large organizations.

BNA's survey of job absence and turnover has been conducted quarterly since 1985. This report is based on responses from 221 human resource and employee relations executives representing a cross-section of U.S. employers, both public and private.