Why This State Takes the Least Vacation

Why This State Takes the Least Vacation

By Nick Fouriezos


Because workaholics don’t just exist in the big city.

By Nick Fouriezos

A retired iron worker and construction foreman, Brad Cederblom has watched the economy of Northern Idaho turn for the worse in the past few decades. The region has shifted from mining and lumber to tourism. There used to be 13 sawmills, and today there are none, says the now vice president of the Idaho AFL-CIO. The dozen Silver Valley mines have dwindled to two. “A lot of stuff is seasonal here. It’s feast or famine,” Cederblom adds. 

To make ends meet, people often work two to three jobs in the high times. In the low times, few consider spending savings on something as nonessential as a vacation, which may explain why …

Almost four-fifths of folks in Idaho report leaving their vacation time unused, making them the least likely in the nation to take a day off.

So says the U.S. Travel Association, which reported that finding in its Under-Vacationed America phone survey of 7,331 American workers conducted in January. Interviewing only full-time workers who receive paid time off from their employer, the nonprofit found that 78 percent of Idaho workers didn’t use up their vacation days, compared to the national average of 54 percent. Many workers were afraid to take a vacation, concerned that they had to show complete dedication to their job (36 percent to 26 percent overall, the report says), feeling like their company culture did not promote time off (27 percent to 20 percent) or worried they would appear replaceable (28 percent to 23 percent). “It’s economic. People are going to work when they can. If they build up any vacation and they’ve got it, a lot of them cash it out if their employer allows that,” Cederblom says.

Last year, American workers left 662 million vacation days untouched, which could come at a significant economic cost.

Other under-vacationed states included New Hampshire, where workplace anxiety ranked high, and Alaska, the only state that listed vacation cost as its top barrier. “Many of the states with the worst vacation usages work in cultures where workers hear negative or mixed messages about time off more frequently,” the report authors wrote. There might be a cultural backlash at play, considering that the Great Plains and Mountain West states didn’t take many vacation days. Last year, American workers left 662 million vacation days untouched, which could come at a significant economic cost — to the tune of $128 billion lost in direct tourism spending — the report says. Meanwhile, Maine, Hawaii, Arizona, Alabama and Wisconsin, respectively, used the most vacation time.


Of course, Idahoans could be deciding that their money is better spent on the weekends. The state is rich in national parks, and the North Idaho city of Coeur d’Alene is a “destination area,” Cederblom notes, thanks to its lakefronts and nearby forests. Many locals prefer a fishing or camping staycation, considering that living costs are some of the lowest in the nation. Whitewater rafting and wine country are short drives from the capital, Boise, which is also a surprising arts haven. Its summer Shakespeare Festival has hosted some talent that would make even New Yorkers green with envy — including choreographer Trey McIntyre, a Lifetime Achievement Award winner from the National Society of Arts and Letters.

Still, workaholic tendencies could stem from the very top. When OZY reached out to the Idaho Department of Labor’s statewide economist, Janell Hyer, she reported that the state didn’t keep track of vacation-related statistics. “As a state employee, if I don’t use the vacation time I have accrued past the ceiling, I just lose it,” she says over email. “Maybe we don’t use it because we are just too busy.”