Nov 12, 2021 - Economy

Mothers make their way back to work

Prime-age employment to population ratio for parents
Data: Current Population Survey/Indeed; Note: Younger children defined as kids aged 13 and below; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

As the pandemic-era circumstances that drove a million American mothers out of work start to dissipate, that huge population of workers is coming back in greater numbers.

Why it matters: Employment for working-age moms rose at a faster rate than any other group of prime-age workers (those between the ages of 25 and 54) in October, according to new Current Population Survey data analyzed by Indeed Hiring Lab.

By the numbers: The prime-age employment to population ratio for mothers with young kids (defined as those aged 13 and below) is now 2.9% below what it was pre-pandemic.

  • That's still a lower recovery than fathers (–1.0%), and women without young kids (–2.3%) — but working moms are closing the gap.

What's happening: The Delta variant is receding, and school-age kids are finally able to get the vaccine, notes Alicia Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University.

  • That means more schools will be able to fully reopen and stay open, and the child care constraints that are keeping parents — usually mothers — at home will fade.
  • Wages are also increasing, which could be playing a role in bringing working moms back, Modestino says.

What to watch: It's unknown whether employment among moms will keep rising as pandemic-era conditions move further behind us.

  • "This is one month of positive data, but it is just one month of data," says Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed.
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