top of page

Why Are There More Disabled Americans In the Workplace?


Why Are There More Disabled Americans In the Workplace?

Gabrielle Bienasz

Oct 27, 2022

Why Are There More Disabled Americans In the Workplace? Long Covid Could Be to Blame, According to a New Report

An economist at the New York Federal Reserve, Richard Deitz, said that people struggling with long Covid are "likely to remain a fixture of the workplace."

A report using government data, published by a researcher at New York Federal Reserve last week, is suggesting that long Covid could be the cause of the increase in the number of disabled people in the U.S. in the workforce, Axios reported.

The New York Federal Reserve economist Richard Deitz used data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, a monthly labor market questionnaire with a sample taken from about 60,000 U.S. households. He said it is possible Long Covid has driven most of the increase in the number of working-age disabled Americans — about 1.7 million since the pandemic started.

The survey asks people to self-report a disability and workforce status and added questions about long Covid in June.

Considering the symptoms reported by the group, the prevalence of long Covid, and the general increase of disabled workers, and those working while disabled, it's reasonable to think long-haul coronavirus sufferers could be driving the increase, Deitz wrote.

Deitz wrote that roughly 1.7 million more people have reported being disabled since the middle of 2020 — plus about 900,000 people who reported being disabled while in the labor force since February 2020.

"Of note, disability counts were generally flat to declining in all categories for several years leading up to the pandemic," he said. Along with other factors, the increase suggests "that these figures represent a conservative estimate of working-age adults disabled from long COVID."

As for the symptom questions, for example, about 1.3 million more people have reported cognitive impairment since mid-2020, he added.

It's also likely that remote work has led to a larger number of people who are disabled being able to work, including those with long Covid, Axios noted.

Deitz also noted, however, that the number of people reporting disabilities has slightly decreased in recent months, "suggesting that some of those disabled with long COVID have improved significantly."

Still, many people with chronic fatigue syndrome — a similar condition to long Covid — work for a few years, then it just doesn't work as well, Katie Bach of Brookings told Axios. Bach researches long Covid and the labor market.

"That is a story we hear a lot. It's like, 'Yeah, I kept working for a couple years and then I just couldn't anymore,'" she said.

The federal government has said long Covid can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act requires employers with more than 15 employees to provide "reasonable accommodations."

"All in all, though, disabled workers with long COVID may well remain a fixture in the workplace for some time to come," Deitz wrote.

bottom of page