US Mothers' Employment Rebounds to Pre-Pandemic Levels

The US employment rate of mothers has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with a 1.9% increase since February 2020, according to the US Department of Labor's Women's Bureau. Remote work options have driven this growth, with 24.3% of mothers reporting telework in the prior week.

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Bijay Laxmi
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US Mothers' Employment Rebounds to Pre-Pandemic Levels

US Mothers' Employment Rebounds to Pre-Pandemic Levels

The employment rate of mothers in the United States has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with a 1.9% increase since February 2020, according to a recent analysis by the US Department of Labor's Women's Bureau. This marks a significant rebound from the nearly 16% plummet in mothers' employment between February and April 2020.

Why this matters: The recovery of mothers' employment rates has broader implications for the overall labor market and economy, as it can impact consumer spending and economic growth. Furthermore, this trend may influence policy decisions and political discussions around childcare, remote work, and women's economic empowerment.

The analysis reveals that many groups of mothers' employment rates now exceed pre-pandemic levels, including Asian moms, Hispanic moms, moms with bachelor's degrees, and moms whose youngest child is younger than six years old. For other mothers, including those with less than a bachelor's degree and those whose youngest child is between 13 and 17 years old, employment rates are around pre-pandemic levels.

One significant driver of this growth is the increase in remote work options, which have enabled more mothers to re-enter the workforce. The analysis found that 24.3% of mothers reported working from home at some point in the prior week. "While many mothers stopped working during [the pandemic] because their employers shut down, others left the labor force because they had no other option than to provide full-time care for their loved ones," said Erin George, economist for the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.

However, telework options are not universally available, with only 4% of mothers with less than a high school diploma reporting teleworking. This uneven progress means mothers without a bachelor's degree have not yet reached their pre-pandemic employment levels, likely due to their lower likelihood of working in remote-friendly industries.

The child care industry, which has not yet recovered from the pandemic crisis, may pose a challenge to this trend. Tiffany Boiman, deputy director of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau, noted, "Whatever unexpected shocks come down the road, they are going to be better positioned to weather those if they are already working."

This development contrasts with the common perception that mothers are forced into the labor market due to cost pressures. The cost of groceries in April was nearly 40% higher than in 2019, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of NielsenIQ data. Inflation is a top concern for Americans overall, particularly for women, going into the 2024 elections.

Celinda Lake, Founder and CEO of Lake Research Partners, emphasized the economic challenges faced by women, stating, "Both parties are out of touch with their economic reality: I think many women are really torn right now. They're worried about the economy, and they often find both parties out of touch with their economic reality." As the labor market continues to evolve post-pandemic, the employment rate of mothers in the US will be a key indicator to watch.

Key Takeaways

  • US mothers' employment rate has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, up 1.9% since Feb 2020.
  • Remote work options have driven growth, with 24.3% of mothers reporting telework.
  • Moms with bachelor's degrees and younger children have exceeded pre-pandemic employment rates.
  • Moms without a bachelor's degree have not yet reached pre-pandemic employment levels.
  • Childcare industry challenges and inflation concerns may impact mothers' employment rates.