Opioid, Meth Abuse During Pandemic Helps Explain Absent Workforce

Even if you don’t read the news, you’ve seen the signs: “Help Wanted.” Businesses are facing a tough time re-hiring staff. During the pandemic, workforce participation was low, and still hasn’t recovered.

So where are all the workers? There are many answers, including moms having to stay home with kids in zoom school, decisions to reskill, entrepreneurship, workers holding out for higher pay or better conditions, and more.

But there’s one phenomenon most economists haven’t looked at: substance abuse.

We know substance abuse spiked during the pandemic. But what was the impact on workforce participation then and now? We find out from University of Pennsylvania economist Jeremy Greenwood, who co-authored a paper answering this question for the National Bureau of Economic Research.