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Long COVID and job boards

long COVIDThe world has suffered through the first (and second, and third) wave of COVID. Many people are vaccinated – many more are not. In the U.S. alone, over one million people have died from the virus, and the death toll continues to the tune of hundreds per month. Roughly 30% of those deaths are people under 65 – working age. The loss of these people has been one significant effect of COVID on the labor market.

However, there has been a second effect – one that is still being defined. Long COVID is an inexact term used to describe a number of symptoms caused by the initial COVID infection. These symptoms can range from ‘brain fog’, fatigue, muscle or joint pain, organ damage, heart issues, shortness of breath, and/or mood changes. These effects have forced many people out of the labor market – they simply cannot work as they did before COVID. In fact, one survey indicated that 22% of those contacted had been unable to continue working because of their symptoms.  One recent study found that COVID illness had reduced the labor force participation rate by 0.2 percentage points by June, meaning there were about 500,000 fewer people working. To put this in perspective, the current estimates of long COVID’s effects are equivalent to about half the cost of all cancers combined.

One final effect of COVID: even if someone who is currently working is fortunate enough to avoid the virus, they may still leave the labor market to care for someone who has it. Much of the U.S. lacks paid family and/or medical leave – forcing workers to make hard decisions if someone in their family becomes disabled.

When the direct and indirect effects of long COVID are added to the overall aging of the labor force, you can see that the existing ‘labor squeeze’ is likely to continue for years to come. So…

What are the implications for job boards and recruiting platforms? Here are some possibilities:

  • Remote work gains value: Remote work is likely to become a lifeline for those with long COVID. Working in a protected environment, at a self-directed pace, could make the difference for those suffering from fatigue and muscle or joint pain.
  • Health care benefits transparency: These have always been important to U.S. workers – but given the many ‘unknowns’ about long COVID, having a good health plan could be a huge incentive for those who know they have had COVID – and those who don’t.
  • Employer branding expands: Just as employers current utilize employer branding on job boards to attract diverse candidates, including those that have various disabilities, you should expect that employers will also focus on candidates with long COVID. (However, one challenge for COVID candidates is that there is currently no clinical diagnostic criteria for long COVID – thus preventing COVID sufferers from gaining a disability status under the Americans with Disabilities Act.).
  • Diversity job boards expand: Just as diversity job boards have expanded their audiences in the past to include new populations, it is likely that they will soon include those candidates with long COVID.

COVID has had uneven effects around the U.S. – and the world. Some regions or nations suffered less because of their robust health care policies – while others suffered more because factors ranging from politics to skimpy or non-existent health care systems. Thus, it makes sense that COVID will continue to affect the global job board industry differently depending on the nation and location. Some food for thought as you plan for 2023!

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