Covid's lasting labor mkt impact

Covid’s Drag on the Workforce Proves Persistent. ‘It Sets Us Back.’

Virus still keeping millions out of work while reducing productivity and hours of millions more, disrupting business operations and raising costs

By Gwynn Guilford and Lauren Weber, The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 7, 2022

Researchers say the virus is having a persistent effect, keeping millions out of work and reducing the productivity and hours of millions more, disrupting business operations and raising costs.

In the average month this year, nearly 630,000 more workers missed at least a week of work because of illness than in the years before the pandemic, according to Labor Department data. That is a reduction in workers equal to about 0.4 percent of the labor force, a significant amount in a tight labor market. That share is up about 0.1 percentage point from the same period last year, the data show…

Another half a million workers have dropped out of the labor force due to lingering effects from previous Covid infections… In a Census Bureau survey in October, 1.1 million people said they hadn’t worked the week before because they were concerned about contracting or spreading the virus… Research shows that in services involving close contact among employees, productivity fell at a 0.7% annual pace during the pandemic, while remaining flat, on average, for manufacturing, and rising steadily among industries with high rates of telecommuting. …[end quote]

Productivity is important because rising productivity enables employers to increase profits (which increases stock prices) without raising prices.

Labor productivity has dropped since 2020.

Although unemployment is still low, the unemployment number only measures those who actively sought employment within the previous month. The Labor Force Participation Rate counts everyone over age 16. While this has increased lately it is still below the 2015 level.

Even though Covid’s impact on the labor market is small it still adds to inflation in a tight labor market.
Wendy

Even though Covid’s impact on the labor market is small it still adds to inflation in a tight labor market.


I disagree. It’s a HUGE factor. Earlier in your note, you state Another half a million workers have dropped out of the labor force due to lingering effects from previous Covid infections…

I looked at some of the Covid infection / deaths / long-haul stats in May 2022

Think about these statistics from a labor market standpoint. Assuming the cases not ending in death only involved a 2 week absence from work, the case quantity means we lost 101 million weeks of labor over two years. For the fatal cases, we LOST 255,683 workers entirely.

Think about the impact of long-haul COVID on these numbers. Estimates range that between 14 and 30 percent of people contracting COVID experience long-haul symptoms that range from merely unpleasant to chronic brain fog / fatigue / pain. If only 10 percent of the long-haulers are experiencing those extreme symptoms, that could be another .10 x .30 x 50,900,000 or 1,527,000 people not fully present in the labor force.

500,000 versus 1,500,000 – take your pick. It’s a HUGE number regardless and HUGE hit to labor markets, especially in high-skill fields (medicine, trades, engineers, etc.). It seems VERY clear to me that we don’t have a classic “monetary” inflation problem inflating wages and we don’t have a lazy worker problem limiting supply. We have limited supply by having hundreds of working age people DIE and a multiple or two more experience life-changing illness that forced them to fall down the skilled work ladder away from work they cannot handle or off the working career ladder entirely.

WTH

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Another reason for falling productivity.

We tend to think of a guy behind a computer pushing up productivity.

Instead it has been the poorest of workers in relative terms getting paid less every year while working harder.

It had been nothing Americans should have any pride in.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not support that. You can find productivity trend lines for various industries here:

For example, productivity in Accommodation & Food Services has been going down since 2016. In contrast productivity in the Medical Laboratories and Diagnostic Imaging industries has been going up.

DB2

I am not just talking the last 5 years.

I am talking supply side economics generally being based on lies. Or rip offs. And definitely on saying and doing anything to sustain inequality. As opposed to growing our economy.

You can have all the productivity gains in the world but if the GDP growth is very slow…what was your point?

Laying off people is not productive. Unless you hire illegals you never get counted. Or hire people with visas that companies pay less than the pay American citizens were receiving.

Productivity partially caught up in the cost of labor as part of the cost of goods.