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Study finds 500,000 U.S. workers out of labor force due to COVID illness

Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani joins the Live show to discuss the overall impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. labor force.

Video Transcript


JARED BLIKRE: Welcome back. COVID-19 is continuing to impact the US labor force. A new study from two economists from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showing that the pandemic is still keeping at least 500,000 workers out of the labor force. Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani joins us now to discuss. And Anjalee, what are the details of this latest news?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, Jared, this report actually highlights a broader look than ever before at what the impact is of COVID on the labor force. And we're looking at that half a million as just a real sort of a smaller number compared to prior estimates of what the overall impact has been of a loss to the labor force.

Now, that half a million represents individuals who have been out based on illness from the virus. But we also know that there have also been loss of life, as well, especially in the working age range, older-- on the older end as well.

And we've seen that while absences post COVID illness do track similarly to previous years or the projections from previous years, as you can see on your screen, really has outdone and outpaced the actual numbers or the projections rather. And looking forward, could continue to impact the labor force.

Because what we're seeing is that individuals are either calling out for at least a week and then either staying out longer than that because of a longer symptom impact or they're old enough that they can just retire after that. And the report also pointed to the fact that some people have left the workforce because of a fear of COVID. So especially, those daily wage jobs those that require in person, we've seen some impact to that as well.

And you're seeing it across sectors, including healthcare for example. We've definitely seen a shortage in labor there. And so this goes back to the fact that the bottom line is the pandemic is not over. And that is something that, I think, economists and others are really trying to grapple with, is what the reality of the impact of this virus still is on the US economy, broadly.

BRAD SMITH: Wow. And so Anjalee, beyond the immediate impact here, where else are we're seeing pandemic pressure on the labor force?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So this is just one portion of it. We're actually seeing how this study did not necessarily cover just long COVID, which is a whole other issue all in its own. Previous reporting from the Brookings Institute showed that the virus and the long COVID, specifically, is affecting more than 16 million Americans in that working age group. And it's estimating that about two to four million are actually out of work right now as a result.

We saw earlier projections from about 2020 that it could be anywhere between 1.5 million and 2 millio. But we're seeing broad-- larger projections now and even the financial impact from that MIT report, showing that there's at least a $62 billion impact in lost wages from a-- sorry, compared to the loss from cancer or diabetes.

So those are two of the bigger losses in the labor force in prior years. And now, we're seeing COVID really impact that more and really grow that number of loss. So broadly speaking, this is just the earliest stages of reflection of the impact from COVID. And I think we're gonna be seeing more reports out like this and really getting harder numbers of what the loss has been.

BRAD SMITH: Yahoo Finance's own Anjalee Khemlani, thanks so much for breaking down the impact of COVID and the long-lasting kind of remnants that we may see even more so. Anjalee, appreciate it.