More People Are at Work, U.S. Census Data Show

As Omicron recedes, the labor market is showing signs of bouncing back.

February 21, 2022

Man Coming in to Work

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Fewer people are calling out of work for COVID-19 reasons, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, which suggests that the labor market is bouncing back and the Omicron variant of the virus could be receding, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The data show that the number of people who were out of work because they were sick or caring for someone who was sick fell to 7.8 million in late January and early February, down from almost 8.8 million in early January. However, the number of people out sick from work is still higher than almost any other time since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

Almost 1.3 million fewer people in January were out of work because of unemployment, furlough or pandemic-related workplace closures. Also, the number of people who were unable to work last month due to children not in school or daycare dropped by 278,000, and the amount of people who were not working because they were afraid they would catch the virus fell 200,000. Additionally, employers added 467,000 jobs in January.

The Journal reports that these factors show that the labor market is rallying from the wave of layoffs and shutdowns that characterized the early days of the pandemic, and America is learning how to coexist with the virus.

“It’s definitely encouraging for labor supply,” Robert Dent, senior U.S. economist for Nomura Securities, told the Journal. “We should expect these numbers to continue to come down as new case loads decelerate further.”

Several states and Washington, D.C., are lifting mask mandates as the Omicron variant subsides. In Washington, D.C., patrons of restaurants and entertainment venues in the district are no longer required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Retailers are following suit, including Walmart which is no longer requiring fully vaccinated employees to wear a mask unless required by state or local governments. The retailer also will no longer give employees sick pay if they are out with COVID-19.