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MONEY & BUSINESS: COVID symptoms blamed for 500,000 workers not returning to labor pool

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The COVID pandemic has sapped the US labor pool of about 500,000 employees because persistent symptoms have prevented them from returning to work, new research shows.

The study — titled “The Impacts of Covid-19 Illnesses on Workers” — tracked 300,000 workers over 14 months through June 2022, comparing their work absentee rates to a historical average going back to 2010.

The workers had no pre-existing health issues, according to the study released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“If we stay where we are with COVID infection rates going forward, we expect that 500,000-person loss to persist until either exposure goes down or severity goes down,” economist and co-author of the study Evan J. Soltas of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told The Wall Street Journal.

Workers who hold jobs that expose them to the virus at a greater level – particularly jobs that don’t include an option to work from home – have a higher health-related absentee rate, according to the research. 

Workers with a college degree and the ability to work from home suffered fewer work related absences because of Covid-19 than those without a college degree, the study found.
Getty Images

Among the most debilitating symptoms the workers suffered are chronic fatigue and organ damage, according to the study of employees who make up part of the Census Bureau’s monthly household survey,

It found that the rate of sick days taken during the 14-month period increased to 10 workers per 1,000 compared with six health-related absences per 1,000 before the pandemic.

The study also found that workers with just a high school degree were absent from work twice the amount of workers who hold a college degree.

“Overall the loss in the US labor supply from Covid-19 illnesses appears substantial,” amounting to a $62 billion cost, which is about half of the estimated losses from cancer or diabetes, according to the study.

In August, the number of working adults reached 164.7 million, exceeding the February 2020 pre-pandemic level for the first time. The unemployment rate, which remains at historic lows, ticked up slightly in August by 0.2% to 3.7% compared to July.

There have been over 57 million reported COVID cases and approximately 250,000 deaths from Covid-19 among working-age U.S. adults through July 2022, the study said.

The Post reported last week that many mothers have been sidelined because they are unable to find childcare providers. That industry has suffered among the worst losses during the pandemic.

A woman take a nasal swab test.
Some women have left the workforce because they could not find adequate childcare.
REUTERS

Many older workers have retired early, in part, because of their fear of becoming sick from the virus.



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