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In claim management conversations from the water cooler to the executive suite, one question arises again and again: “How will the recession affect workers’ compensation claims?” With so many employers struggling to keep their companies afloat, this critical issue must be scrutinized from every possible angle.

The jury is still out on whether the recession — and accompanying workforce layoffs, in particular — will result in an increase in workers’ compensation claims. Historically, the numbers and costs have spiked during economic downturns. But as the American workforce has shifted from blue- to white-collar jobs with less exposure to physical trauma, an increase in layoffs may not signal an increase in claims. On the other hand, the current recession is the longest in almost two decades, and unemployment reached a 25-year high in March 2009, so the full impact remains to be seen.

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