Alliance for Pandemic Preparedness

April 17, 2020

A COVID-19 Risk Assessment for the US Labor Force



  • Using data from the National Health Information Survey and Quarterly Census of Earnings and Wages, Maher et al estimate the proportion of the U.S. workforce at-risk for COVID-19 complications across regions, counties and industries, and share that: (1) Nearly 80% of all workers have at least one health risk and 11% are over 60 with an additional health risk, (2) Workers in rural and urban essential industries where working from home is less frequently an option, are less likely to: i) have of insurance coverage,  ii) be white;  and more likely to be in the bottom half of the income distribution and (3) Essential industries in rural counties are often made up of smaller and more homogenous workforces, making them particularly vulnerable to disruptions in the workforce. 
  • The authors suggest that failure to protect vulnerable workforces could lead to the breakdown of essential industries, cause avoidable deaths and hardship, and could also create further hotspots when communities manage a return-to-work policy. 

Maher et al. (Apr 17, 2020).  A COVID-19 Risk Assessment for the US Labor Force. Pre-print downloaded Apr 17 from