It’s a pandemic worse than anything we’ve seen in more than 100 years, and the amount of sick leave American workers have taken in 2020 is unprecedented. The average was 1.5 million workers a month taken from the workforce either because they were sick, or they were caring for someone who was, or they were worried about getting sick. “But there are also other complicating factors, including child care. Many parents that didn’t have schools or nurseries to take their children to acting as both a caregiver and as an employee on the same day,” says Andy Challenger, Sr. Vice President with the global job placement firm Challenger, Grey and Christmas. In a normal year, pre-Covid, on average 1.27 million workers would call in sick during any given month. Last year it was 2.5 million a month.
Hardest hit have been the essential workers, the ones who couldn’t work remotely from the safety of their own homes but had to interact with the public and expose themselves daily to the possibility of contracting Covid. The people who populate grocery, drug and big box stores. They’ve kept the economy running through the darkest of days, but the overall loss of even their productivity in the workforce is now showing as recovery struggles forward slowly.
In addition to the extra sick leave, people have been leaving vacation days on the table at the end of the year. Quarantining can do that to you, but so can job insecurity. “Right now there’s roughly 1.65 Americans unemployed for every open position listed in the United States and people are hanging on to whatever they have by any means,” says Challenger.
The landscape of the American worker has been ravaged by the virus, and how 2021 will compare will be determined by how quickly vaccines can be dispersed and their effectiveness in stopping the spread.
photo: Getty Images
graph below from USA Today.