Distant US workers could stand aside indefinitely

Several million Americans who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic expect to remain on the fringes indefinitely, according to a report.

Workers who have chosen to stay at home over fears of falling ill or having physical disabilities could exacerbate the national labor shortage for years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Around three million lost workers are reluctant to resume pre-COVID activities — including going to work, shopping in person or eating out — even after the pandemic has ended, the newspaper reported, citing the findings of a team of researchers.

The research team calls the phenomenon “long social distancing” and believes it will be a lasting scar of the COVID-19 pandemic. Job dropouts tend to be women without college degrees who have worked in low-paying jobs, they added.

“Our evidence is that the labor force isn’t going to magically recover,” said Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist who was among the researchers overseeing a year-long survey. “We’re still not seeing any change in these long social distancing numbers, suggesting that this decline in labor force participation could be fairly permanent.”

Researchers name the trend "long social distancing."
Researchers call the trend “long social distancing”.
Universal Images Group via Getty

A sharp decline in the labor force early in the pandemic created labor and product shortages that helped push inflation to a 40-year high. Despite a sharp rebound since March and April 2020, when 22 million people fell out of work, the Wall Street Journal said the workforce was 1.2 million below its pre-pandemic level as of March this year. Distant US workers could stand aside indefinitely


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