Covid’s Drag on the Workforce Proves Persistent. ‘It Sets Us Back.’

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-workforce-absenteeism-productivity-economy-labor-11667831493

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Two-and-a-half years after Covid-19 emerged, reported infections are way down, pandemic restrictions are practically gone and life in many respects is approaching normal. The labor force, however, is not.

Researchers say the virus is having a persistent effect, keeping millions out of work and reducing the productivity and hours of millions more, disrupting business operations and raising costs.

In the average month this year, nearly 630,000 more workers missed at least a week of work because of illness than in the years before the pandemic, according to Labor Department data. That is a reduction in workers equal to about 0.4 percent of the labor force, a significant amount in a tight labor market. That share is up about 0.1 percentage point from the same period last year, the data show.

….

Another half a million workers have dropped out of the labor force due to lingering effects from previous Covid infections, according to research by economists Gopi Shah Goda of Stanford University and Evan J. Soltas at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a Census Bureau survey in October, 1.1 million people said they hadn’t worked the week before because they were concerned about contracting or spreading the virus.

The resulting labor shortages are contributing to upward pressure on wages and inflation, one reason the Fed delivered its fourth consecutive 0.75 percentage point interest rate increase last Wednesday. On Friday, the Labor Department reported brisk job growth in October, but health-related absences remained elevated and the labor force contracted slightly.

Author(s): Gwynn Guilford and Lauren Weber

Publication Date: 7 Nov 2022

Publication Site: WSJ

Catch up on the Actuaries Institute’s COVID-19 Mortality Working Group’s latest analysis of excess deaths.

Link: https://www.actuaries.digital/2022/11/03/covid-19-mortality-working-group-another-month-of-high-excess-mortality-in-july-2022/

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In summary:

  • Total excess mortality for the month of July 2022 is estimated at 16% (+2,600 deaths), relative to expected mortality at pre-pandemic levels.
  • Total excess mortality for the first seven months of 2022 is 14% (+13,700 deaths).
  • Around half of the excess mortality for the first seven months of 2022 is due to COVID-19 (+7,100 deaths) with remaining excess of +6,600 due to the remaining causes.
  • October 2022 has the lowest COVID-19 surveillance deaths of any month in 2022.
  • We estimate that COVID-19 deaths will result in excess mortality of around 6% (+2,800) for August to October 2022, with overall excess mortality likely to be higher than this.
  • We continue to expect that COVID-19 will be the third leading cause of death in Australia in 2022.

Author(s): COVID-19 MORTALITY WORKING GROUP

Publication Date: 3 Nov 2022

Publication Site: Actuaries Digital

Group Life COVID-19 Mortality Survey Report

Link: https://www.soa.org/4a368a/globalassets/assets/files/resources/research-report/2022/group-life-covid-19-mortality-03-2022-report.pdf

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Tables 2.1 through 2.41 display high-level incidence results for the second quarter of 2020 through the first quarter of 2022 compared to the 2017-2019 baseline period for each combination of (a) incurred/reported basis and (b) count/amount basis as of March 31, 2022. In these tables, the number of COVID-19 claims has not been adjusted for seasonality, but the ratios to baseline have been adjusted for seasonality.


Note that additional data reported in April and May 2022 indicated that the 1Q 2022 excess mortality would likely complete downward from the 19.9% shown below using March data. The fully complete 1Q 2022 excess mortality is expected to remain above 15%.

….

The 24-month period of April 2020 through March 2022 showed the following Group Life mortality results:
• Estimated reported Group Life claim incidence rates were up 20.0% on a seasonally-adjusted basis
compared to 2017–2019 reported claims.
• Estimated incurred Group Life incidence rates were 20.9% higher than baseline on a seasonally-adjusted
basis. As noted above, the incurred incidence rates in February and March 2022 are based on fairly
incomplete data, so they are subject to change and should not be fully relied upon at this point.

Author(s):

Thomas J. Britt, FSA, MAAA
Paul Correia, FSA, MAAA
Patrick Hurley, FSA, MAAA
Mike Krohn, FSA, CERA, MAAA
Tony LaSala, FSA, MAAA
Rick Leavitt, ASA, MAAA
Robert Lumia, FSA, MAAA
Cynthia S. MacDonald, FSA, MAAA, SOA
Patrick Nolan, FSA, MAAA, SOA
Steve Rulis, FSA, MAAA
Bram Spector, FSA, MAAA

Publication Date: August 2022

Publication Site: SOA

Public’s Cash Stash Will Cushion a Downturn? Maybe Not

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/publics-cash-stash-will-cushion-a-downturn-maybe-not/

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One calming thought amid today’s economic turmoil has been that any recession would be softened by the large trove of savings that the U.S. public has accrued since the pandemic began. But that cushion may be a lot less protective than many believe, according to a study by Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Pandemic savings have “been run down further than previously thought,” Shepherdson noted. “Consumers’ financial cushion against tighter financial conditions is smaller” than before, he wrote.

Thanks to Washington stimulus and curbed spending in the early days of COVID-19, savings had run up to $2.6 trillion. New government data, however, show that this ready cash has shrunk, no doubt due to high consumer outlays that kicked in since. Almost a third of the trove has been spent.

Indeed, consumers have gone back to their previous ways of preferring spending to saving, and then some. This past decade, before the pandemic, the personal savings rate was around 6% of their disposable income. That shot up to almost 25% in early 2020 and stayed high until the middle of 2021. Lately, it is a mere 3.5%.

Author(s): Larry Light

Publication Date: 10 Oct 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Deaths Among Older Adults Due to COVID-19 Jumped During the Summer of 2022 Before Falling Somewhat in September

Link: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/deaths-among-older-adults-due-to-covid-19-jumped-during-the-summer-of-2022-before-falling-somewhat-in-september/

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As of the week ending October 1, 2022, the United States has lost nearly 1.1 million lives to COVID-19, of which about 790,000 are people ages 65 and older. People 65 and older account for 16% of the total US population but 75% of all COVID deaths to date. Vaccinations, boosters, and treatments have led to a substantial decline in severe disease, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19, but with booster uptake lagging, deaths for older adults rose again during the summer of 2022.

From April to July 2022, the number of deaths due to COVID increased for all ages but rose at a faster rate for older than younger adults and stayed high through August 2022, with deaths due to COVID topping 11,000 in both July and August among people 65 and older. While COVID deaths began to drop again in September, they were still higher for those ages 65 and older than in April or May; for those younger than 65, deaths dropped below their April levels.

The rise in deaths is primarily a function of increasing cases due to the more transmissible Omicron variant. Other factors include relatively low booster uptake, compared to primary vaccination, and waning vaccine immunity, underscoring the importance of staying up to date on vaccination. On September 1st, CDC recommended a new, updated booster for all those ages 12 and older, but particularly for those who are older.

Author(s): Meredith Freed Follow @meredith_freed on Twitter , Tricia Neuman Follow @tricia_neuman on Twitter , Jennifer Kates Follow @jenkatesdc on Twitter , and Juliette Cubanski Follow @jcubanski on Twitter

Publication Date: 6 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Kaiser Family Foundation

State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo Issues New mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance

Link: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLDOH/bulletins/3312697

Guidance: https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/20221007-guidance-mrna-covid19-vaccines-doc.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Analysis: https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/20221007-guidance-mrna-covid19-vaccines-analysis.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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Today, State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo has announced new guidance regarding mRNA vaccines. The Florida Department of Health (Department) conducted an analysis through a self-controlled case series, which is a technique originally developed to evaluate vaccine safety.

This analysis found that there is an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination. With a high level of global immunity to COVID-19, the benefit of vaccination is likely outweighed by this abnormally high risk of cardiac-related death among men in this age group. Non-mRNA vaccines were not found to have these increased risks.

As such, the State Surgeon General recommends against males aged 18 to 39 from receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Those with preexisting cardiac conditions, such as myocarditis and pericarditis, should take particular caution when making this decision.

Author(s): Joseph A. Ladapo

Publication Date: 7 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Florida Dept of Health

Reductions in US life expectancy during the COVID-19 pandemic by race and ethnicity: Is 2021 a repetition of 2020?

Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9432732/

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COVID-19 had a huge mortality impact in the US in 2020 and accounted for most of the overall reduction in 2020 life expectancy at birth. There were also extensive racial/ethnic disparities in the mortality impact of COVID-19 in 2020, with the Black and Latino populations experiencing reductions in life expectancy at birth over twice as large as that of the White population. Despite continued vulnerability of these populations, the hope was that widespread distribution of effective vaccines would mitigate the overall mortality impact and reduce racial/ethnic disparities in 2021. In this study, we quantify the mortality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on 2021 US period life expectancy by race and ethnicity and compare these impacts to those estimated for 2020. Our estimates indicate that racial/ethnic disparities have persisted, and that the US population experienced a decline in life expectancy at birth in 2021 of 2.2 years from 2019, 0.6 years more than estimated for 2020. The corresponding reductions estimated for the Black and Latino populations are slightly below twice that for Whites, suggesting smaller disparities than those in 2020. However, all groups experienced additional reductions in life expectancy at birth relative to 2020, and this apparent narrowing of disparities is primarily the result of Whites experiencing proportionately greater increases in mortality in 2021 compared with the corresponding increases in mortality for the Black and Latino populations in 2021. Estimated declines in life expectancy at age 65 increased slightly for Whites between 2020 and 2021 but decreased for both the Black and Latino populations, resulting in the same overall reduction (0.8 years) estimated for 2020 and 2021.

Author(s): Theresa Andrasfay, Noreen Goldman

Publication Date: 31 Aug 2022

Publication Site: PLOS ONE

Citation: Andrasfay T, Goldman N. Reductions in US life expectancy during the COVID-19 pandemic by race and ethnicity: Is 2021 a repetition of 2020? PLoS One. 2022 Aug 31;17(8):e0272973. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272973. PMID: 36044413; PMCID: PMC9432732.

KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: September 2022

Link: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/poll-finding/kff-covid-19-vaccine-monitor-september-2022/

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Overall adult vaccination rates have been relatively steady over the past year. The latest COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor finds that nearly eight in ten adults (77%) say they have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including about half who say they are fully vaccinated and also received at least one booster dose (47%), about a quarter who have been fully vaccinated but have not gotten a booster (26%), and a small share who are partially vaccinated (3%). Twenty-three percent remain unvaccinated, the vast majority of whom say they will “definitely not” get the COVID-19 vaccine (88% of unvaccinated, or 21% of all adults). For the latest breakdown of self-reported vaccination rates by demographic group, see the Vaccine Monitor Dashboard.

In late August, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of new, updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters that target both the new omicron variants and the original strain of the virus. The bivalent boosters (one by Moderna and one by Pfizer) are now authorized for use by those ages 12 and older who have gotten an initial series of a COVID-19 vaccine, including those who have already received one or more boosters.

Awareness of the new boosters is modest, with about half of adults saying they have heard “a lot” (17%) or “some” (33%) about updated booster, 31% saying they have heard “a little,” and one in five saying they have heard “nothing at all” about the new booster doses.

Older adults and Democrats are somewhat more likely than their counterparts to say they have heard at least “some” about the new boosters, but fewer than a quarter across these groups report hearing “a lot” about the new shots.

Author(s): Grace Sparks Follow @gracesparks on Twitter , Lunna Lopes , Liz Hamel Follow @lizhamel on Twitter , Alex Montero , Marley Presiado , and Mollyann Brodie Follow @Mollybrodie on Twitter

Publication Date: 30 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Kaiser Family Foundation

5 Worst States for Working-Age Deaths in August

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/09/27/5-worst-states-for-working-age-deaths-in-august/

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The number of deaths of working-age Americans was lower in August than in August 2021, but it was still much higher than it was in August 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Death figures for the period from July 31 through Aug. 27 are just starting to firm up. But very early figures show that at least 53,655 U.S. residents ages 25 through 64 died from COVID-19 and all other causes during that four-week period.

The number of deaths was down sharply from 77,847 in August 2021, but it was still up 6.1% from the total of 50,590 for August 2019.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 27 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

COVID-19: Audit Cites ‘Distortion, Suppression Of Facts’ In Nursing Home Reporting Under Cuomo

Link: https://dailyvoice.com/new-york/northsalem/news/covid-19-audit-cites-distortion-suppression-of-facts-in-nursing-home-reporting-under-cuomo/828102/

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The state Health Department intentionally “misled the public” regarding the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes under former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, according to a scathing audit from the Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept through New York, the Department of Health was not prepared to respond to the infectious disease outbreaks in nursing homes, according to the audit, which helped lead to the inaccurate virus-related death count in facilities.

Auditors found that health officials undercounted the death toll in nursing homes by at least 4,100 residents and at times more than 50 percent, despite claims from the former governor, who said the state was doing well in protecting seniors.

Author(s): Zak Failla

Publication Date: 17 March 2022

Publication Site: New York Daily Voice

Covid Still Kills, but the Demographics of Its Victims Are Shifting

Link: https://khn.org/news/article/covid-still-kills-but-the-demographics-of-its-victims-are-shifting/

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Californians age 75 and older made up 53% of covid deaths through July in 2022, up from 46% in 2020 and 2021. Only about 6% of the state’s residents are 75 and older. And white Californians 75 and older outnumber Latinos in that age group about 3 to 1.

In the initial vaccination rollout, California prioritized seniors, first responders, and other essential workers, and for several months in 2021 older residents were much more likely to be vaccinated than younger Californians.

“Now, the vaccination rates have caught up pretty much with everybody except for kids, people under 18,” Brewer said. “You’re seeing it go back to what we saw before, which is that age remains the most important risk factor for death.”

Author(s): Phillip Reese

Publication Date: SEPTEMBER 21, 2022

Publication Site: KFF

Will Survivors of the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic Have Lower Mortality?

Link: https://crr.bc.edu/working-papers/will-survivors-of-the-first-year-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-have-lower-mortality/

Report: https://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/wp_2022-10.pdf

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Abstract:

The mortality burden of the COVID-19 pandemic was particularly heavy among older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with underlying health conditions.  These groups are known to have higher mortality rates than others even in the absence of COVID.  Using data from the 2019 American Community Survey, the 2018 Health and Retirement Study, and the 2020 National Vital Statistics System, this paper estimates how much lower the overall mortality rate will be for those who lived through the acute phase of the early pandemic after accounting for this selection effect of those who died from COVID.  Such selection may have implications for life insurance and annuity premiums, as well as assessments of the financial standing of Social Security – if the selection is large enough to substantially alter projected survivor mortality.

The paper found that:

  • 10-year mortality rates, absent direct COVID deaths and long COVID, will likely be lower in 2021 than anticipated in 2019.
  • However, these differences are small, ranging from a decline of 0.4 percentage points for people in their 60s to 1 percentage point for those in their 90s.
  • The small difference is in spite of the fact that COVID mortality was, indeed, very selective, with mortality declines exceeding half the maximum possible declines, holding total COVID deaths constant, for every age group.

 
The policy implications of the findings are:

  • That declines in mortality due to COVID selection likely will not impact overall population mortality substantially enough to affect Social Security cost projections.
  • Any impact of selection effects on Social Security costs will likely be swamped by ongoing mortality increases directly attributable to acute and long COVID.

Author(s): Gal Wettstein, Nilufer Gok, Anqi Chen, Alicia H. Munnell

Publication Date: August 2022

Publication Site: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College