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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Almost half of unemployed Americans say health issues are the primary reason they're not working, according to new survey data from McKinsey, shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: If one of the key drivers of the labor shortage is Americans' physical and mental health, rather than any lack of economic growth, then that means the Fed is not well placed to get millions more people working.

By the numbers: Mental health problems have reached epidemic proportions. McKinsey's American Opportunity Survey polled 5,000 Americans and found that 37% of them had been diagnosed with mental health issues, or sought treatment for their mental health.

Between the lines: The survey found that 16% of respondents were unemployed, with 9% looking for work and 7% not looking. Those numbers are much higher than the official unemployment rate of 4.2%.

  • Health was by far the main reason they said they weren't working. 15% said it was because of their mental health, and 30% said it was because of their physical health.
  • Among unemployed people who are not looking for work, the numbers are even higher: 20% say it's because of their mental health, and 45% say it's because of their physical health.
  • Where it stands: Health-related unemployment is on an upward trajectory, compared to the last time the survey was run, in March.

The big picture: The number of American jobs is about 9 million lower than the pre-pandemic trend. Only 59.2% of Americans are employed, down from 61.1% pre-pandemic and a high of 64.7% in 2000.

  • The number of job openings, however, is at an all-time high of more than 11 million.

The bottom line: The pandemic has been very tough on America's physical and mental health. That explains a large part of the labor shortage, and it's not something that can be fixed with low interest rates.

Go deeper

Jan 13, 2022 - Health

Jumpstart launches fund for Black founders

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Nashville-based Jumpstart Health Investors launched Jumpstart Nova, the first U.S. venture fund to exclusively back Black-founded and led health care companies.

  • Major players including Eli Lilly, HCA Healthcare and the American Hospital Association injected $55 million.

Why it matters: A tiny fraction of existing health tech companies have Black leaders at the helm — a result of decades of systemic racism and the institutional barriers it has created.

Nurses across the U.S. strike against COVID working conditions

A nurse wipes away tears inside the COVID-19 unit of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in California. Photo: Nic Coury/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National Nurses United, a labor union with more than 175,000 members nationwide, organized several strikes across the country Thursday, calling on the hospital industry to "invest in safe staffing."

Why it matters: The health care industry has struggled against the backdrop of heightened health risks, worker shortages and burnout, largely exacerbated by the onslaught of the coronavirus.

Aug 7, 2021 - Sports

Exclusive poll: Trouble ahead for the Beijing Olympics

Expand chart
Data: Momentive; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Nearly half of Americans say China shouldn't be allowed to host the Winter Games in 2022 because of its record of human rights abuses, a new Axios/Momentive poll finds.

Why it matters: These results suggest that, in addition to facing public health challenges over the continued spread of COVID, the Beijing Games will be politically divisive for a large segment of the American audience.