Child Care Employment is Crawling Back

by Henry Fields

March 6, 2023

It’s well known that childcare is scarce and expensive for working parents. That also affects how many people can take part in the workforce, a critical issue during a time of record job openings and near historic low unemployment.

The QualityInfo article on Oregon’s Child Care Industry is a good primer on many of the issues facing the industry and workers with young families. When that article was published, employment at day care facilities was down significantly due to fallout and restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19. How has employment at day care centers fared since then?

Relative to the deep decline in early 2020, Oregon has seen a significant rebound. Oregon and Lane County are still below the number of workers employed in the sector during the same time in 2019, significantly so in Lane’s case. Douglas County is above where it was in 2019, although the total number employed in the sector in 2022 was only 192, so relatively small increases make a larger percentage impact.
Graph showing child day care services employment in 2nd quarter, index, 2000 = 0

The graph above is indexed to second quarter employment in the year 2000. All three areas have added employment relative to that time, with significant deviations in trajectory.

Given the sector’s struggles, even a partial rebound is significant. Child care centers are themselves employers, and ones that tend to struggle to fill job openings because they have even tighter constraints than many businesses. The ability to raise wages, for example, is limited by thin margins and high staffing needs.

This data is limited in what it can tell us about availability of childcare on the ground. Small businesses, such as sole proprietorships operating out of a home, are excluded from this data, which is based on the employer-employee relationship. That has a big impact in industries like child care where there are many independent or even informal day care arrangements.

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