• Graph: Change in Missourians Reporting Disability Characteristics (March 2020 - August 2022)
    Graph: Change in Missourians Reporting Disability Characteristics (March 2020 - August 2022)

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missourians report higher rates of disability and long COVID than the U.S. average, according to a study brief by University of Missouri Extension.

Long COVID – ongoing health problems that last months or more following infection with the COVID-19 virus – could be keeping 2 million to 4 million U.S. workers out of the workforce.

The brief, “COVID-19 and Paid Leave,” is available for download at

The share of U.S. workers who have a disability grew 19% in the past two years. Lingering effects of COVID-19 infections could be contributing to this increase, said the brief.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Current Population Survey, the percentage of Missourians reporting difficulty remembering or making decisions – “brain fog” – is up 15% from pre-pandemic levels and is three percentage points higher than the U.S. average.

Of Missourians who previously had COVID, 37.4% reported symptoms lasting three months or longer, compared with 33.2% of all Americans.

"These findings suggest that the impact of COVID-19 on Missouri's workforce will continue to be felt for quite some time," said Luke Dietterle, MU Extension specialist for Exceed – Regional Economic and Entrepreneurial Development (

As long COVID cases continue to rise, employer-provided paid leave programs can reduce the related economic burden, said the report. Of working Missourians, 7.5% need paid sick leave and 5.9% need paid family leave. Dietterle said these are workers who need leave and lack access to paid leave through their employers.

Employees younger than 30 and those who work for firms with fewer than 50 employees tend to have a greater need for paid sick leave and paid family leave.

Occupations with the highest need for paid sick leave include service occupations (14%); production (9%); installation, maintenance and repair (8%); and sales (8%).

“This paid leave report highlights the impact that seasonal infectious diseases, beyond COVID, can have on both Missouri’s workforce and businesses through absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’ – that is, showing up to work while sick,” said MU associate extension professor Adrienne Ohler, who co-authored the brief with Dietterle.

“COVID-19 and Paid Leave” is part of Exceed’s Missouri Economy Indicators series.

Source: Luke Dietterle, 573-882-1742,