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Respiratory illnesses up 96 percent in retail trade in 2021

March 13, 2023

Respiratory illnesses in the retail trade sector rose 96.0 percent from 2020 (21,500 cases) to 2021 (42,100 cases). That drove a 75.6-percent increase in all illnesses (29,500 to 51,850). In addition to the increase in illnesses in retail trade, injuries also increased by 13.2 percent in the same period (311,600 to 352,800). That led to an increase of 18.6 percent for injuries and illnesses combined (341,100 to 404,700). Cases of work-related COVID-19 infection are counted among respiratory illnesses.

Injury and illness cases for the retail trade sector, 2019–21
Year Total recordable cases Injuries Illnesses


395,700 386,400 9,300


341,100 311,600 29,500


404,700 352,800 51,800

In 2021, the respiratory illness rate for the retail trade sector was 37.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. That was notably higher than the rate of 0.8 before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. Within retail trade, general merchandise stores had the highest publishable incidence rate of respiratory illness in 2021, 77.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.

Rate of respiratory illness per 10,000 full-time workers in retail trade and general merchandise stores, 2019–21
Industry 2019 2020 2021

Retail trade

0.8 19.6 37.5

General merchandise stores

1.3 15.3 77.5

These data are from the Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program. To learn more about injuries and illnesses in the workplace, see “Employer-reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses – 2021.” We also have more charts on nonfatal work injuries and illnesses. Information on how COVID-19 is reflected in the nonfatal injury and illness data in 2020 and 2021 is in our COVID-19 Fact Sheet. Cases of COVID-19 requiring days away from work or transfer of work duties will be reported separately beginning with the 2023–24 reporting period.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Respiratory illnesses up 96 percent in retail trade in 2021 at (visited July 21, 2024).

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