One Downside to High U.S. Employment Rate: More Flu

THURSDAY, Jan. 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A rising employment rate in the United States could have an unexpected consequence -- greater spread of the flu, an expert says.

Each 1-percentage point increase in the employment rate correlates with a 16% rise in flu-related doctors' visits, according to Erik Nesson, associate professor of economics, Ball State University in Indiana, CBS News reported.

The rising employment rate combined with a severe 2019-2020 flu season could convince employers to loosen their sick day policies, Nesson said in a statement this week.

"Since a person may be infectious while experiencing mild symptoms, this greatly increases the probability that the virus will spread to other workers in the firm," he said. "This implies that firms should consider more generous sick day policies, particularly during the flu season."

His study was published last year in the journal Economics & Human Biology.

The U.S. November employment rate was 71.7%, just below the pre-recession high of slightly more than 72%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, CBS News reported.

Flu activity is high in the U.S., with at least 9.7 million flu cases, 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths from flu so far this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

It said there's a 15% chance that flu season will peak in late January and a 25% chance it will peak in February, CBS News reported.

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