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More parents rejoining the workforce

California Jobs
Posted at 1:48 PM, Apr 21, 2022

A lot of people were forced to leave their jobs early on in the pandemic, either due to child care issues or general workforce reduction.

Federal data published Wednesday indicates many of them returned to work in 2021.

Both parents are working in 62.3% of families with children under the age of 18.

The rate is nearly at pre-pandemic levels, and represents a rebound from 2020, when the number of working families hit an eight-year low.

"Especially for wives and mothers, they were more likely to have to quit their jobs to take care of the childcare," said Kelly Chandler, a professor at Oregon State University. "That really fell on them, and I think with more moms and wives being able to get back into the workforce, we'll see that [employment] trend increasing."

Wednesday's report also shows the ongoing inequality in the labor market.

One family member was unemployed in 6% of White families, compared to more than 10% of Black families.

"As the old saying goes, there are a lot of times where African-Americans are the last hired, first fired," said Dr. Henry McKoy, a faculty member and director of entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central University. "We certainly saw some of that happen in the midst of the pandemic. Businesses have shut down or shrunk in some aspect, and a lot of the folks that got displaced ended up being African-American."

The gap is smaller than it was in the early 2000s, but it remains larger than the gap between White employment and Asian or Hispanic employment.

Researchers believe more could be done.

"On a broad level, we need to drive more African-American entrepreneurship," McKoy said. "Regardless of how we think of race and class, when corporations are created, the owners of those corporations tend to hire people from within their networks."

McKoy said business owners and managers are also revisiting the descriptions for many of their open jobs.

"There are a number of jobs that may require certain higher education degrees that could really be done by somebody who's gotten reskilled or upskilled," McKoy said.

Most, but not all, portions of the survey showed people returning to the workforce.

One notable exception was among single mothers with children under age three.

The employment rate for those mothers dropped substantially in 2020 and remained low in 2021.

Experts believe some of that could be attributed to the 2021 expansion of the Child Tax Credit.

Now that the credit's been eliminated, it is possible some of those mothers could end up back in the workforce in 2022.