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More than one-fifth of parents unable to fully return to work due to childcare: Fed survey

·Reporter
·3-min read

A new survey from the Federal Reserve reported that more than one-fifth of all parents were unable to fully return to work as they stayed home to take care of their children.

The Fed survey, which was done in November last year, underscores the challenges that households face in returning to work despite the increasing anecdotes of employers unable to fill jobs.

Among the 11,000 people sampled in the survey, 9% of parents said they were not working due to disruptions in childcare or school closures. Another 13% of parents said they were working less for those same reasons.

The impact of those disruptions vary significantly across race and income. About 36% of Black mothers and 30% of Hispanic mothers were unable to fully return to work as they stayed home with their children, compared to 19% of white mothers. The Fed added that 33% of unmarried mothers and about one-third of mothers with less than $50,000 in annual income were similarly not working or working less for the same reasons.

The Fed's Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020 report, released May 17, noted that Black, Hispanic, and single mothers were particularly held back from fully returning to work due to childcare or school disruptions. Source: Federal Reserve
The Fed's Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020 report, released May 17, noted that Black, Hispanic, and single mothers were particularly held back from fully returning to work due to childcare or school disruptions. Source: Federal Reserve

“Even as the economy has improved, we can certainly see that some are still struggling, especially those who lost their jobs and those with less education, many of whom fell further behind,” said Fed Governor Michelle Bowman in a statement.

As of April, the U.S. economy remains 8 million jobs below pre-pandemic employment levels. A weaker-than-expected April jobs report has raised questions about the pace of the labor market recovery, despite progress on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that labor force participation rates among women (20 years old and over) fell more and is recovering at a slower pace compared to men of the same age range.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that as of April, female labor force participation rates (among those 20 years and older) were 2 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels, compared to a 1.8 percentage point drop among men.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that as of April, female labor force participation rates (among those 20 years and older) were 2 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels, compared to a 1.8 percentage point drop among men.

The Fed survey points to the role of childcare in that dynamic, with 14% of all prime-age women citing childcare or family obligations as reasons for being unemployed (compared to 5% for men).

Fed officials continue to express concern about the ability of women to return to work given the challenges of childcare and school closures.

“We saw that earlier in the pandemic where women withdrew strongly from the workforce — more so than men. I think that's still because we haven't really reopened schools totally,” Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester told Yahoo Finance on May 11. “They're not back to where they were and I think those issues are significant.”

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the Fed, economics, and banking for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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