The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) published Changes in the Workforce and Their Impact on Workers’ Compensation Outcomes, a new report that provides insights into how recent economic and demographic changes have influenced the workers’ comp system, and how these changes will likely affect claims outcomes in the near future.
The study aimed to determine how indemnity payments and the duration of temporary disability were impacted by inflation, high job turnover and short labor supply, the aging workforce, and a steep national unemployment rate during the pandemic.
This report utilized claims data from 2016-2021, covering 33 states and 85% of benefits paid in 2017. This data set excluded COVID-19 claims.
The report noted that risk of accidents is substantially higher at the start of employment, and that the average job tenure prior to an injury for younger workers is shorter than for older workers.
There is a clear link between employment tenure at injury and the per-claim value of indemnity payments. Work-related accidents occurring in very early employment were $892 greater than the baseline category, while injuries occurring later had gradually less impact on indemnity payments, and injuries occurring after two years of employment led to 2-5% lower indemnity payments.
Additionally, periods of high unemployment, like that during the pandemic, higher wages, and age at injury, increase the average indemnity payment and temporary disability duration.
There is also variation in the value of indemnity payments and duration of temporary disability by industry and injury. Injuries in construction, mining and transportation were associated with higher indemnity payments and longer durations of temporary disability and the same held true for injuries of lower extremities, inflammations, knee, and spine injuries.