Record numbers of women left labor force in 2020

Women left the workforce in record numbers in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and child care centers.

In 2020 nearly 1.9 million fewer women were in the labor force than in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate for women in 2020 rose to 8.3%, with 6.3 million women unemployed, in addition to nearly 58.9 million not in the workforce.

In 2019 there were nearly 57 million women not in the workforce and nearly 2.8 million unemployed. Their unemployment rate was 3.6% that year, according to the BLS data, which reports the employment status of the civilian non-institutional population aged 16 years and over.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Businesses are struggling to find workers, and the lack of affordable, quality child care has become a big issue for them because of the impact it has on their workforce, according to a Dayton Daily New investigation that published this week.

“We know that with parents of very young children, children under age 5, they are really leaving the workforce in droves,” said Warren County Commissioner Shannon Jones, president and CEO of Groundwork Ohio. “(Others are) considering downshifting their career path because they have to take care of kids in this really volatile environment.”

Schools and many child care centers have now reopened but some centers take fewer kids and enrollment is down in the Dayton region.

And with the COVID-19 Delta variant surging, many schools have had to send kids and staff home because they are sick or need to quarantine after being exposed to the disease. Parents may not have the flexibility at work to stay home or to find child care for those days when children can’t go to school.

“It’s going to prolong this re-entry of women back into the workforce,” said Linda Smith, director of early childhood initiatives at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington D.C. think tank. “Child care options are one thing, but if there is concern over schools and putting their kids back in schools all of these things impact the workforce and businesses.”

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See all our stories on the impact of child care challenges on local families, children and businesses:

Child care crisis: Costs, shortage of workers leading to ‘a situation that is untenable’

Mothers pivot, juggle to balance work and child care in pandemic

PHOTOS: Kids persevering in the pandemic while playing, learning

Child care can cost up to $15,000 for one child in Dayton region

Enrollment dropped for many Preschool Promise providers during pandemic

Child care responsibilities hindered work

Record numbers of women left labor force in 2020

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