Skip to content

Omicron Aside, Employees Have Logged Fewer Sick Days

Better safety rules and “presenteeism” are keeping people on the job.
relates to Omicron Aside, Employees Have Logged Fewer Sick Days
Illustration: George Wylesol for Bloomberg Businessweek

The omicron wave of Covid-19 put less of a dent in U.S. employment growth than most forecasters expected, but it did keep a lot of workers home. The 2.3% of employed Americans not at work because they were ill for the entire mid-January jobs survey reference week was the highest such percentage since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track in 1976, and by far the highest in recent years.

Still, it wasn’t that much higher than the 2% recorded in January 1978, during an outbreak of a highly contagious but not very dangerous influenza strain that came to be known as “Russian flu.” From the looks of the accompanying chart, missing work because of illness was probably even more common before the mid-1970s.