CDC: Research Says Long Covid “Contributing” to Labor Shortage

About 18% of those with Long COVID have not returned to work for over a year. The CDC says it's "hurting the U.S. economy."

A recent presentation from the CDC has clarified the governmental agency’s stance on the impact crater that Covid-19 complications have left on the US economy.

According to their analysis of third-party reports, the CDC says research is “suggesting Long Covid is contributing to a labor shortage and is hurting the U.S. economy.”

Among other research, the quote references a January 2023 report finding that around 18% of those who report having Long Covid (which is 5% of all workers who got Covid) couldn’t return to their workplace for over a year. It’s a fairly clear confirmation from the CDC: The acute stages of Covid infections may not be spiking, but the threat to the economy isn’t over.

5% of Those With Covid Can’t Work for More Than a Year

The new presentation comes from the Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) team, which mentions labor shortages during a segment discussing the challenges of working while dealing with Long Covid.

However, the report that the CDC highlighted in their new presentation actually came out last January, following an analysis of more than 3,000 Covid-19 workers’ compensation claims from the period between January 2020 and March 2022. That report, out from New York’s largest workers’ compensation carrier, the New York State Insurance Fund, had plenty of other insights worth keeping in mind.

From the report:

  • Almost one-third of all workers infected with Covid-19 suffered or are suffering from Long Covid, with the percentage peaking during the initial phase of the pandemic and falling over time.
  • The percentage of female workers with Long Covid (37 percent) was 11 points higher than that of male workers (26 percent).
  • Forty percent of workers with Long Covid returned to work within 60 days of infection while still receiving medical treatment.
  • Nearly all workers with comorbidities or those hospitalized for their initial infection experienced Long Covid.
  • The incidence of Long Covid in essential workers may be higher than the data suggests, creating a potential blind spot for policymakers.

Expect the Labor Shortage to Continue

Understandably, people have heard enough about the Covid pandemic and want it to be over. But assuming that 5% of those who get Covid in the future will stay out of the labor market for at least a year, the economy will face some significant headwinds for as long as Covid continues to circulate.

And in addition to questioning if a return to work is possible at all, those with Long Covid face the challenge of a workplace that may be resistant to offering reasonable accomodations that could make the transition manageable.

What Does This Data Mean for Workers?

The main takeaway for workers is that wearing your mask and socially distancing still makes a lot of sense. Pushing for Covid-safe ventilation systems in workplaces can also go a long way towards mitigation measures, and so can continuing to work from home when possible.

But when it comes to getting the job that’s right for you, there is a silver lining to this fairly dark cloud: A shortage of labor shifts the negotiating power towards workers. This might even help to explain the fervor with which businesses have turned towards labor-saving measures such as AI tools.

Protect Your Remote Data with SurfShark VPN

Connect an unlimited number of devices for just $2.49 per month.

Whatever the case, more research is likely to emerge in the coming years to clarify the role that Long Covid plays in our economy, and we look forward to getting a clear picture of its impact.

Did you find this article helpful? Click on one of the following buttons
We're so happy you liked! Get more delivered to your inbox just like it.

We're sorry this article didn't help you today – we welcome feedback, so if there's any way you feel we could improve our content, please email us at

Written by:
Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
Explore More See all news
Back to top
close Step up your business video conferencing with GoToMeeting, our top rated conferencing app – try it free for 14 days Try GoToMeeting Free