Workers call out in droves as Omicron causes major disruption in economy

In workplaces across the country, Americans who have Covid are asking their colleagues to cover them up while they are sick. And when those colleagues can’t, because, well, they Also have Covid, you get the kind of serious economic disruption the United States is facing right now.

Numbers: The United States averages about 650,000 cases per day, more than double the peak recorded in last winter’s outbreak. This is also likely to be a significant undercoverage, given the number of people who test positive using home testing or who do not get tested at all.

With so many people falling ill, as many as 5 million U.S. workers were forced to stay at home last week, Capital Economics researcher Andrew Hunter calculated. This means that around 3% of the workforce has been taken offline, triggering a cascade of adverse effects in critical sectors like healthcare and education.

  • About 20% of US hospitals reported critical staff shortages last week, the highest share since December 2020.
  • A California superintendent gave a high school physics class last Monday after 300 teachers were absent from schools, mainly because they were infected with Covid.

And even in the aviation industry, where staff shortages are well documented, it should be noted that Alaska Airlines canceled 10% of its flights for the remainder of January, citing an “unprecedented” number of employees calling in sick. .

But sometimes it’s not that easy to do that

Many low-wage workers in the United States are forced to choose between going to work sick or losing their pay. Only 33% of workers in the bottom 10% of the salary bracket have paid sick leave, compared to 95% of the top 10%. And as companies tightened their paid vacation policies at the start of the pandemic, they are starting to reduce them.

  • Walmart and Amazon, the two largest private employers in the United States, cut paid vacation time last week after the CDC shortened its isolation guidelines for those infected.

At the end of the line : Economists have likened Omicron’s push to a blizzard, a brutal and sudden shock to the economy that will take some time to recede but, when completed, will not produce many lingering effects.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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