A big reason for the labor shortage is hiding in plain sight — daycares are losing workers

A big reason for the labor shortage is hiding in plain sight — daycares are losing workers
© barleyman/Getty Images barleyman/Getty Images

  • The latest jobs data showed that the number of daycare workers dipped in November.
  • Childcare has emerged as one of the drivers for the labor shortage, since most parents can’t return to work without it.
  • Fewer daycare workers means even more childcare constraints, potentially keeping more women home.

The latest data on the jobs that the country is adding — and losing — sheds some light on one reason why labor shortages persist: The US is still losing daycare workers. 

“We’ve seen a very slow recovery in the daycare industry, and that has a significant impact on the rest of the economy — because it means that parents can’t return to work,” Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider. 

Daycare services saw a one-month loss of 2,100 in November, following a drop of 2,800 in October. The last time daycare service jobs grew was in September, with a gain of 23,300, but even that followed two months of declines. 

With the release of the November figures, that means daycare services are 108,100 — or 10.3% — below employment levels in February 2020. 

“With a workforce that is down, where are you going to send your kid?” Jasmine Tucker, the director of research at the National Women’s Law Center, told Insider. “If you don’t have a safe place for your kid to go, you’re not coming back to work and that’s going to disproportionately impact women.”

Indeed, women have continually fallen behind in the country’s economic recovery. With the rate of jobs added for women in November, it would take 30 months for women just to get back to pre-pandemic employment levels, per NWLC’s estimates. Women’s labor force participation — which tracks women who are working or actively seeking work — ticked up slightly in November, but still remains at a level last seen in 1989.

Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed, said the “weak numbers” for childcare employment may mean that “the labor force participation issues we’ve seen this year, especially for parents, especially for mothers, might not be going away any time soon.”

The Washington Post reported in November that there were 1.3 million fewer employed mothers than in February 2020, significantly higher than the number of missing fathers and adults without kids. And childcare deserts — areas where the number of children outnumber available slots by three to one — have been a worsening problem throughout the pandemic, with over half of Americans living in a childcare desert.

All told, it shows that daycare is a pivotal industry for the economy. As Bunker said, daycare provides “services that help support the employment of other people in the labor market” — alongside providing important care for children. 

Early childhood educators previously told Insider that while they find the work rewarding, many struggle with the low wages and paltry benefits — and, in some cases, are seeking out new roles.

Right now, Tucker said, “childcare jobs are not high-quality jobs. They are low paid jobs. These overwhelmingly women, and disproportionately women of color, they’re doing backbreaking work.”

Dr. William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and the chief economist for the AFL-CIO, said that to get women back into the labor force we need to fix the care economy — something Democrats are pushing for in their Build Back Better Act.

“The government must provide the infrastructure, must provide the impetus to get that going. Without it, we can’t get out of this conundrum,” Spriggs said.

“Unless we can get women’s labor force participation back to where it was, we can’t get out of this.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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