That’s how many people said they weren’t working around the turn of the year because they either had COVID-19 symptoms or were caring for someone who did—nearly triple the number who said the same in the first half of December.
The absences, reported by the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey for Dec. 29 through Jan. 10, coincide with a surge in coronavirus cases and underscore how the virus continues to mess with the economy. For example, airports were packed over the holidays because airlines, unable to maintain their staffing levels, had to cancel flights. Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian even called on the Centers for Disease Control to help it keep employees at work by shortening the isolation guidance for fully vaccinated people showing coronavirus symptoms. Six days later, the CDC cut its isolation guidance for people with COVID-19 to five days from 10.
In addition, the number of people initiating claims for unemployment benefits has risen three weeks in a row to its highest level in three months.
The uptick “has provided an important glimpse into the Omicron variant’s impact on the labor market,” wrote Adam Kamins, a director at Moody’s Analytics, in a commentary.
The highly transmissible omicron variant sent daily case counts to as high as 1.33 million on Jan. 10. Thankfully, cases have begun to fall again, at least for now, and the labor market should rebound once the wave passes, economists said.
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