How Much Is Average PTO in the U.S.?

Between unlimited PTO and flexible vacation, our workforce sees a lot of PTO variability in 2020. So how much is average PTO for the U.S.?

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Whats the average PTO in the US?

Last updated January 20, 2021

Did you know small business employees value their paid time off (PTO) almost as much as they value healthcare coverage?

In a recent report of more than 600 small business employees, PTO outranked dental coverage, vision coverage, and 401(k) plans as American’s favorite benefit. Second only to employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

As a small business owner, it’s likely very important to your business to have a documented and competitive PTO plan in order to attract future job candidates and maintain current employees, especially as the job market tightens.

But what makes a PTO plan competitive in small business these days?

The short, dry answer is anything above of average. But what’s average?

How Much Is Average for PTO?

Ten (10) days is the average number of PTO for private sector employees who have completed one year of service, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This number, rounded to the nearest whole number (it’s actually 9.7 days), does not include sick days or paid holidays. But it turns out the average PTO length varies substantially depending on a number of factors, like tenure with a company, public vs. private industries, and your geographic location.

In this post, we look at average days of PTO  across various metrics, based on data compiled from the BLS as well as our own survey data. All, and more, of which is available in The State of PTO in Small Business.

We hope this helps you stay above the curve, literally, when it comes to positioning your competitive PTO policy, or at minimum give you some guidance about what average PTO looks like in other companies, industries, and geographies around you.

How Much Does the Average Number of Days of PTO Increase Over Time?

The average American small business employee can expect to earn an extra 3-4 days of PTO every 5 years of service to an employer, according to the BLS. This data, stemming from a representative sample of U.S. workers, confirms what we all likely already knew: vacation days increase over time. But to what extent? According to the feds, by the time you’ve worked 10 years at the same employer, you’ve put three weeks paid vacation in your pocket.

Length of Service and Establishment Size in Private Industry Average Number of Days of PTO
After 1 year, all establishments 10
After 1 year, 1–99 workers 9
After 1 year, 100 workers or more 12
After 5 years, all establishments 15
After 5 years, 1–99 workers 13
After 5 years, 100 workers or more 16
After 10 years, all establishments 17
After 10 years, 1–99 workers 15
After 10 years, 100 workers or more 19
Adapted graph using BLS data. Source.

What Is the Average Number of PTO Days by Industry?

There are 32 industries listed below, with PTO data averaged from only 606 small business employees from our survey. It doesn’t take a data scientist to know, because of the diffusion of the data across many buckets, the sample size is not likely to provide statistical significance for each industry. We’ve got more work to do munging and crunching public data sources to pull in a more representative sample on this question. Still, we thought this “starter data” was worth sharing. Just, please, take these numbers with a small grain of salt.

Average Number of PTO Days by Industry
Non-Profit / Foundation 17.5
Government / Military 17.3
Utilities 15.8
Media / Printing / Publishing / Broadcasting 14.8
Manufacturing 14.2
Agriculture / Forestry / Fishing 14.0
Finance / Banking / Insurance 14.0
Internet (Including SaaS/Mobile) 13.7
Telecommunications 12.3
Engineering / Architecture 11.4
Communications 10.9
Legal 10.9
Wholesale 10.6
Healthcare / Medical (including Hospice/Homecare/Outpatient) 10.4
Business / Professional Services 9.8
Real Estate 9.7
Transportation / Distribution 8.7
Entertainment / Recreation 8.6
Construction / Home Improvement 8.5
Education 8.5
Retail 8.3
Computers (Hardware, Desktop Software) 7.9
Business Services (Hotels, Lodging Places) 7.8
Biotechnology 7.2
Food Service / Hospitality / Travel (including restaurants, hotels, etc.) 6.9
Consulting 6.0
Accounting 5.6
Aerospace / Aviation 5.3
Automotive (Sales/Repair) 4.7
Advertising 3.3
Mining 2.0
Marketing / Market Research / Public Relations 0.0
* bold numbers denote above national average PTO for one year of service, Source.

What Is the Average PTO Across the US?

Perspective is everything. When you’re talking to new candidates during the hiring process, be cognizant of the extent to which geographic perspective might influence what your candidate imagines PTO looking like. According to our findings, Northeasterners might assume a more generous PTO allowance compared to their Southeastern neighbors.

Average PTO Days by Region

California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado


Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma


Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana


Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania


West Virginia, DC, Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland

* bold numbers denote above national average PTO for one year of service, Source.

What is the Average Number of PTO Days by Age?

Employees earn longer stints of PTO over time, and often carry earned PTO allowances with them from employer to employer. If you’re hiring new employees, make sure your HR team is sensitive to more seasoned workers who likely expect more liberal vacation policies compared to younger hires.
Inasmuch, it’s not surprising people aged 55 and over feel disproportionately more satisfied with their PTO plan (67%) compared to their 18-24-year-old counterparts (50%). (Read more)

Average Number of PTO Days by Age
18-24 years old 6.2
25-34 years old 7.8
35-44 years old 9.5
45-54 years old 11.3
55-64 years old 10.4
65+ 13.0
* bold numbers denote above national average PTO for one year of service, Source.

“Where Do I Document My PTO Policy?”

We hope these averages helped you contextualize your business and its policies. Then, when you’re ready to get pen to paper and start drafting, or revamping, your PTO policy consider filing it into an HR resource that your employees can access with ease and familiarity.

An employee handbook is a great start. A digital employee handbook is “next-generation.”

Or, if you need help, talk to one of our HR consultants, on-call HR support that can guide all your HR questions, including the tough stuff like U.S. state regulations for sick days.

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