Chris Brunet on January 12, 2022
A study released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution suggests that long COVID could be keeping more than a million workers out of the workforce.
Long COVID could account for over 15% of unfilled jobs in the U.S., Katie Bach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in the report released Tuesday. Long COVID is a term used to describe the prolonged effects of COVID-19 that may persist for weeks, months or even years beyond the initial infection, the report said.
“My analysis finds that, using conservative assumptions and best available data, long COVID COULD account for ~1.6M ‘missing’ workers,” Bach told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “But we lack the data we need to validate that estimate, or to calculate economic impact more broadly. So we need BLS and Census Bureau to add long COVID questions to existing surveys, like the Current Population Survey.”
Some in the medical community were quick to back up Bach’s report. “This analysis mirrors the UK experience where Long COVID, as well as acute COVID-19, threaten not only health, but also the economy through staff illness and absence across sectors,” Amitava Banerjee, a cardiologist and professor of Clinical Data Science at University College London, told the DCNF. “Further long-term data are needed to understand the trajectory and the recovery of people with Long COVID. Countries like the UK and the US with high infection rates in successive waves of the pandemic have not only suffered unacceptable death rates. The unacceptable burden and true implications of Long COVID are now also clear, further supporting policies for greater infection suppression.”
Some economists, meanwhile, remain more skeptical. “While there are undoubtedly some COVID-19 patients with lingering symptoms beyond the normal course of an infection, research into the ‘Long COVID ‘ phenomenon has become hopelessly politicized by activists who wish to enlist its existence as a pretext for sweeping policy interventions and NIH funding,” Phillip Magness, a senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, told the DCNF. “These activists typically use self-reported surveys from their own ranks, without even verifying whether or not the alleged ‘Long COVID’ sufferer had COVID-19 itself. Until we have better and more rigorous data on ‘Long COVID,’ it is premature to speculate that it is a cause of widespread labor market shortages.”
While long COVID alarmists and skeptics alike agree that more high-quality data is needed to better study the subject, it is yet unknown whether the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Census Bureau will incorporate long Covid questions into any future surveys.
Harry Wilmerding contributed to this report.
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