Solar Eclipse Cost U.S Employers $700.0 Million in Lost Productivity

Scientific natural phenomenon. Total solar eclipse with diamond ring.

Glasses to watch Monday’s solar eclipse may have only cost a few dollars, but the interest in watching the eclipse trapeze across the sky cost U.S. employers $700.0 million in lost productivity.

The total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017 was the first one to occur across the U.S. since 1979. Here in the U.S., the total solar eclipse cut a path 70 miles wide from Oregon to South Carolina, touching 14 states. All of North America saw a partial solar eclipse.

Employees needed about 20 minutes to get ready to watch the 120-to-150-second event. With approximately 87.3-million workers on the clock during the eclipse, and using hourly wages and other data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is expected the solar eclipse will have cost upwards of $700.0 million.

Employers directly in the path of the eclipse saw almost $200.0 million in productivity wiped off the books.


This number is much lower than the $2.1 billion in lost productivity that came as a result of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, but the total solar eclipse only lasted two-and-a-half minutes, versus the weeks-long tournament.

That said, the loss of productivity, according to the survey, does not mean that good things cannot come out the eclipse. Preventing employees from viewing it could do more to harm morale than increase productivity.

Even employees that do not work in an office are susceptible to distractions. Whether working outside the office, on the road, or even in the fields, employees can be distracted and taken away from work by their smartphones and tablets.

Eclipse and Productivity Math

National Cost to Employers: $694,098,123

87,307,940: Estimated number of workers “on the clock” during the eclipse

$7.95: Cost of 20 minutes of unproductive time per employee as a result of the eclipse, based on $23.86 average hourly wage

123,761,000:– Full-time workers the age of 16 or over
14.8%: Number of workers who work non-day shifts

82.8%: Number of workers who work on an average weekday

Part of that $700.0 million is offset by the tens of millions of dollars it brought in in tourist dollars. By some estimates, up to 75,000 visited Nashville to watch the eclipse, spending up to $20.0 million. An estimated 100,000 visited Salem, Oregon.


Total Eclipse Could Cost US Employers $694M,” Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., last accessed August 21, 2017.

Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, last accessed August 21, 2017.

Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules in 2004 Summary,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, last accessed August 21, 2017.

American Time Use Survey,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, last accessed August 21, 2017.


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