by Lindy Z. Kerr, Esq.

The national average of the duration of workers’ compensation benefits tends to track the job market. When unemployment drops, the average duration of workers’ compensation benefits also tends to drop. When unemployment rises, the duration of benefits also tends to rise.

A recent report from the National Counsel on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has some positive news on this front. The report concludes the average duration of payment of workers’ compensation temporary total disability benefits dropped from a peak of 143 days in 2009 to 140 days in 2012. The report points out that the decrease in duration is in line with the national unemployment rate, which decreased from 9.9% in December 2009 to 7.8% in December 2012. According to the report, the manufacturing and construction industries saw the largest decreases in duration of payment of benefits. These industries are generally hit hard in an economic downtown so this statistic may be another sign of an improving economy.

Yet, the average duration of TTD payments is still much higher than it was before the recession. According to NCCI, in 2007 the average duration of TTD payments was only 127 days. In addition, whether the average duration of payment will continue to drop has yet to be seen. The jobs report released by the Labor Department earlier this month was lower than expected. Only about 169,000 jobs were added in August and the number of Americans who are either working or looking for work fell to the lowest level since 1978. However, as we approach the end of the year, the average duration of payment of TTD benefits may still continue to decline as seasonal employment picks up.