Washington, D.C. — The child care sector struggled with hiring and retention even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but over the past few years, a tight labor market has left this important sector struggling to recover from the pandemic even as others bounce back. New analysis from the Center for American Progress reveals that at the rate jobs have been regained in 2023 so far, it would take almost 12 months—until September 2024—for the child care sector to recover pandemic-related job losses.
Other key findings from the analysis include:
- In September 2023, the child care sector was still down about 39,400 workers compared with February 2020 levels.
- If the child care sector had continued its pre-pandemic trajectory—and the pandemic recession had not occurred—there would be more than 150,000 additional jobs within the industry.
- Pay for child care workers is among the least competitive of any low-wage industry. In 2022, there were only five occupations with median wages lower than those of child care workers.
- In 2022, child care workers were earning only 98 percent of what waiters earn and 81 percent of what short-term substitute teachers earn.
Child care wages have failed to compete with wage increases in similarly low-paying occupations, and the expiration of federal relief funds will likely exacerbate existing hiring and retention challenges. Wage data analysis underscores the fact that child care workers—predominantly women, and disproportionately women of color—are not being paid livable wages and will continue to be forced out of the sector if legislators fail to take action.
The new column examines why the child care sector is recovering jobs slower than other pandemic-affected sectors.
“In 2022, there were only five occupations with median wages lower than those of child care workers,” said Rose Khattar, director of economic analysis at CAP and co-author of the column. “Simply put, the child care sector suffers from a shortage of good jobs, making it challenging to attract and retain workers, particularly when demand for child care is high.”
“The root of the issues facing the child care sector is a market failure,” said Maureen Coffey, policy analyst for the Early Childhood Policy team at CAP and co-author of the column. “Without addressing the need for sustained public investment in child care, its families and its workers will continue to struggle with high prices, low wages, and too few slots for children.”
Read the column: “The Child Care Sector Is Still Struggling To Hire Workers” by Rose Khattar and Maureen Coffey
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Em Espey at email@example.com.