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Long Covid keeps people away from work and can reduce the productivity of others in the workplace, contributing to labor shortages and weighing on the US economy overall, according to a new study.
Long Covid – also known as long-distance Covid, post-Covid or post-acute Covid syndrome – is a chronic disease resulting from Covid-19 infection. The potential symptoms number in the hundreds and can be debilitating for some and last for years.
Up to 30% of Americans will develop long Covid after contracting Covid, which affects up to 23 million Americans, the US Department of Health and Human Services said in November.
The symptoms can leave people unemployed for long periods of time.
According to a recent study by the New York State Insurance Fund, the state’s largest worker’s compensation insurer, about 18% of people with long Covid had returned to work no more than a year after contracting Covid. Of this proportion, more than 3 in 4 were under 60 years old.
Another 40% returned to work within 60 days of infection but continued to receive medical treatment — with challenges such as reduced hours, lower productivity and other workplace precautions, NYSIF said.
“When these findings are broadly reflected, they begin to fill in information gaps about the labor market, including an underestimated reason for the high vacancies and falling participation rate since the onset of the pandemic,” the report said.
There are about 1.7 vacancies for every unemployed person. The labor force participation rate was 62.3% in December, showing “little net change” since early 2022 and one percentage point below pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report.
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The NYSIF report examines 89,107 worker’s compensation claims filed from January 2020 to March 2022. The insurer approved 3,139 claims related to Covid-19, of which 977 were long-Covid, as defined by certain criteria.
Researchers have not come together on a unified definition of Long Covid. According to the NYSIF, a worker must have either been unemployed or received medical treatment for at least 60 days to be counted as a long-term Covid sufferer. And since these are workers’ compensation claims, the data only counts people who had Covid exposure at work.
Other studies suggest that Covid has long kept hundreds of thousands and as many as 4 million Americans out of work.
According to Gopi Shah Goda, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, long Covid has pulled people out of the labor market at about the same rate as baby boomer retirements each year. In other words, it corresponds to an extra year of population aging.
Long Covid is responsible for part of the job gap
The Long Covid jobs effect occurs when labor demand is hovering near historic highs.
Job vacancies and the number of voluntary departures by workers hit records after a broad economic reopening in early 2021, when Covid vaccines became widely available. Wages rose at their fastest pace in decades and the layoff rate hit record lows as companies competed for workers and then tried to keep them.
Long research on Covid suggests the disease played an under-the-radar role in these broad pandemic-era labor market trends, likely fueling inflationary pressures in the US economy.
Millions of people left the labor market in the early days of the pandemic due to factors such as illness, caregiving and fear of contagion. But workers have not returned as quickly as thought, particularly those outside their prime, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in November.
About 3.5 million workers are still missing, Powell said. He attributed at least “part” of that gap to the long Covid.
People who are unable to return to work due to long-distance symptoms can experience many negative financial repercussions, such as: B. reduced income and loss of employer-provided health insurance, NYSIF found. The data shows that applicants were also less likely to return the longer they were unemployed.
Also, Long Covid medical costs for the average person are about $9,000 a year, not counting insurance coverage.