Journal Article

Did Substance Abuse during the Pandemic Reduce Labor Force Participation?

Abstract: The labor force participation rates of prime-age US workers dropped in March 2020—the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—and have still not fully recovered. At the same time, deaths from substance abuse were elevated during the pandemic relative to trend, indicating the number of people abusing substances may have increased, and those who abuse opioids and crystal methamphetamine have lower labor force participation rates than those who don’t abuse these substances. Could increased substance abuse during the pandemic be a factor contributing to the fall in labor force participation? Estimates of the number of additional people with a substance-use disorder during the pandemic presented in this article suggest that increased substance abuse accounts for between 9 percent and 26 percent of the decline in prime-age labor force participation between February 2020 and June 2021.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; substance abuse; labor force participation;

JEL Classification: I12; J11; J21;

Access Documents


Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Part of Series: Policy Hub

Publication Date: 2022-05-09

Volume: 2022

Issue: 5

Order Number: 2022-05