2013 Flu Season Hitting Workers Hard

Data from the BLS Current Population Survey indicate absences were higher in January 2013 than in any month since February 2008.

More than 4 million American workers were working part time in January 2013 or were out because of their because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment, and this number was the highest for any month since February 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Feb. 19 in its The Editor's Desk feature. The chart accompanying the brief report showed how the numbers tend to spike during peak flu season each year.

The data come from the BLS Current Population Survey. It showed 2,853,000 people were out part time because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment, while 1,202,000 did not work at all during the survey reference week because of illness or injury.

"The number of workers with an absence because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment shows a regular spike during the months of December through March. Although not all absent workers who supplied this reason were sick with a cold or the flu, it is likely that the increase in absences during the winter months is related to the seasonal illnesses that are typical during this time of year," BLS noted.Its report is an update of "Illness-related work absences during flu season" by Terence M. McMenamin in Issues in Labor Statistics, originally published in July 2010.

Workers are classified as at work part time if they worked fewer than 35 hours during the survey reference week.

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