Long-term Covid leaves up to 4 million people in the US out of work, study says

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The pandemic continues to cast a shadow over the workforce. Long-term Covid, a combination of symptoms that emerge months or even years after recovery from the virus, is preventing up to 4 million Americans from working, according to a new study.

The Brookings Institution report, released last Wednesday (24), finds that about 16 million Americans of working age (between 18 and 65 years old) have had Covid for a long time.

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People suffering from long-term Covid face a range of symptoms that can make work difficult, including brain fog, anxiety, depression, fatigue and breathing problems.

Brookings estimates that 2 to 4 million people are unemployed due to Covid-19. The midpoint of this range – 3 million full-time equivalent workers – represents a sizable 1.8% of the entire US civilian workforce, the report said.

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The findings come as many sectors, including education, restaurants and healthcare, are grappling with serious labor shortages that are contributing to the worst inflation in four decades.

The economy had 10.7 million unfilled jobs in June. While it is below recent records, it is still well above pre-Covid levels of 7 million.

The economic cost of the long Covid is significant.

Based on the average US salary of $1,106 a week, Brookings estimates that the absence of 3 million people from the workforce because of the long-term Covid translates to about $168 billion a year in lost earnings.

However, that sum does not include the full economic burden of long-term Covid, Brookings said, a burden that includes the cost of lower productivity for people working sick, healthcare costs and lost productivity for caregivers.

“If long-term Covid patients do not begin to recover at greater rates, the economic burden will continue to increase,” the Brookings authors wrote.

They found that if the long population of Covid grows by just 10% each year, after 10 years, the annual cost of lost wages will be half a trillion dollars.

“These impacts could worsen over time if the US does not take the necessary policy action,” the Brookings authors said.

They call for at least five government actions to ease the economic burden of the long-term Covid: better prevention and treatment; extended paid sick leave; better workplace accommodations; wider access to disability insurance; and better data collection.

Source: CNN Brasil

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