• Live
    • Audio Only
  • google plus
  • facebook
  • twitter
News > U.S.

Long COVID-19 a Problem for US Workforce

  • A doctor checking a patient.

    A doctor checking a patient. | Photo: Twitter/ @sheldonbk

Published 19 September 2022

David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard University, recently estimated that the total cost of long COVID-19 is US$3.7 trillion.

Around 16 million working-age Americans have long COVID-19. Of those, 2-4 million are out of work due to long COVID-19, noted Katie Bach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.


COVID-19 Pandemic Nears Its End; Efforts Must Continue - WHO

Lost wages amount to around US$170 billion a year, and "these impacts stand to worsen over time if the United States does not take the necessary policy actions," Bach pointed out.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that 24 percent of people who have contracted COVID-19 experienced symptoms for three months or more. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 70 percent of Americans have contracted COVID-19.

If 24 percent of those have long COVID-19, that means 34 million working age Americans have had long COVID-19 at some point. The Fed study found that 50 percent of respondents had recovered from long COVID-19, which means 17 million people may currently have long COVID-19.

What does that mean for the workforce? The Fed study also found that nearly 26 percent of those with long COVID-19 have had an impact on their work -- either rendering them unemployed or reducing their hours.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West said that long COVID-19 will have an impact on the labor force because it will push some people into long-term care issues and keep them out of the workforce.

"Employers will have to figure out how to handle those cases and ways to pay for their long-term medical needs. The pandemic isn't over, but will continue to resonate for months to come," he mentioned.

David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard University, recently estimated that the total cost of long COVID-19 is US$3.7 trillion. Nearly 60 percent of the cost, or US$2.2 trillion are lost quality of life; the remainder is reduced earnings (US$1 trillion) and greater medical spending (US$528 billion).

The post-pandemic labor force participation rate, the rate at which people are in the workforce, remains low, and long COVID-19 may be a contributing factor, said Barry Bosworth, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The August employment report showed that the labor force participation rate increased 0.3 percentage point over the month to 62.4 percent, still 1.0 percentage point below its pre-pandemic level.

Bach argued what is needed is more accessible prevention and treatment options, among other things. But even with more options, individuals will continue to get infected, and some will acquire long COVID-19.

She also listed several other critical government interventions that can reduce the economic burden of long COVID-19: expanded paid sick leave, improved workplace accommodations, wider access to disability insurance, and enhanced data collection on long COVID-19's economic effects.

Recently, the White House released its National Research Action Plan on Long COVID-19, while Congress appropriated US$1.15 billion for funding to the National Institutes of Health, for the organization to study long COVID-19. 

The plan builds on ongoing research supported by the U.S. government and aims to accelerate and expand it, in addition to calling for enhanced action by the private sector.


David Cutler
Post with no comments.