The Heat Is On: America’s Productivity Meltdown

By: Kaydee Ambas · August 03, 2023 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

Burn Notice

In the face of intensifying heat waves, industries ranging from meatpacking to home healthcare are grappling with significant productivity loss.

As workers battle high temperatures, their output and performance are also getting fried. This phenomenon is not restricted to traditionally hot areas — its effects are rippling across the nation, even reaching cooler states.

Heated Jobs

Increased temperatures are forcing work delays and modifications across various sectors.

For example, Amazon (AMZN) workers recently went on strike to protest working conditions exceeding 100 degrees. Utility crews in sunny Orlando now postpone gas leak inspections on triple-digit days due to safety concerns. Even in cooler states like Michigan, construction crews are reducing work hours due to the heat.

The issue isn’t confined to outdoor jobs, either. Heat-related problems are plaguing indoor roles in factories and restaurants across many sectors, including aviation, telecommunications, delivery services, and healthcare.

Billion-Dollar Burn

In 2021 alone, over 2.5 billion hours of labor were lost to heat exposure in the US. This drain on productivity made an economic dent of about $100 billion — a figure projected to balloon to $500 billion per annum by 2050.

Researchers found in a recent study that when temperatures reach 90 degrees, productivity falls by roughly 25%. When temps hit triple digits, it slides 70%. Notably, the productivity slump isn’t evenly spread. Workers in lower-income counties bear the brunt, losing up to 5% of their wages on particularly hot days. In affluent areas, the wage loss is less than 1%.

As our country confronts these extreme temperatures, it’s important to consider potential solutions that not only tackle climate change but also protect workers from its adverse effects.

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