Day cares continue to hire, but number of caregivers is well below pre-pandemic levels
Share Now on:
Nearly 970,000 people in this country are employed by day cares, according to Friday’s jobs report. That number has been ticking up steadily for more than a year, but is still more than 8% below where it was prior to the pandemic. Child care will be critical if more parents are going to return to work and increase the labor participation rate.
Because there are fewer day care providers, there are at least a half a million fewer day care spots, estimates Wells Fargo senior economist Sarah House.
Which means parents are scrambling.
“It’s limiting either their overall work schedules or whether they can join the workforce in the first place,” she said.
Child care spots that are left, cost more. Prices have gone up about 4.9% percent in the last year.
Bringing child care workers back, said Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute, is economics, not rocket science.
“So pay is one thing, providing benefits, having better working conditions, having better hours, all of those things are going to entice more workers into that profession,” she said.
And as the number of jobs in retail and goods economy decline overall, those workers may look for jobs in child care.
“Perhaps we’ll see some of that gap narrow between the relative pay of day care workers for example versus going and working at a warehouse,” House said.
But some areas of the country are also professionalizing day care — setting it up as a crucial beginning to education.
“Education also provides child care to the extent children are being supervised,” said Meredith Johnson Harbach, who studies family law at the University of Richmond. “And child care is also education.”
Harbach said there’s a tendency to talk about child care as a way to let parents work, when it’s also about letting their children start the lifelong work of learning.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.