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“Tripledemic” Hits Workforce

The number of people who missed work last month due to childcare problems reached an all-time-high in October, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by The Washington Post (subscription). That’s a problem for an economy already dealing with workforce shortages.

What’s going on: The “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus are keeping kids home from school and day care in larger-than-usual numbers, “colliding with staffing shortages at schools and day cares to create unprecedented challenges for parents and teachers.”

  • More than 100,000 Americans missed work last month. That’s more than at the height of the pandemic.
  • Day cares and public schools are short approximately 384,000 workers, placing a greater burden on existing staff.

Why it’s important: “‘We have sick kids at the same time we have a child-care crisis—you put the two together and there just isn’t any wiggle room,’ said Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG. ‘People are falling through the cracks. It means missed paychecks, disruptions at home, and staffing shortages that erode productivity growth and increase costs at a time when we’re already worried about those things.’”

Economic effect: The economy is starting to show signs of impact.
“Worker productivity—a measure of goods and services an employee can produce in an hour—posted the sharpest plunge on record in the first half of this year, according to federal data.”

  • Hardest hit by the phenomenon are low-income families, many of whom do not get paid sick leave.
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