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Pandemic challenges for NH workforce fell especially hard on women

The percentage of women ages 25 to 35 with jobs fell from 85.5% in early 2020 to about 76% in early 2022.
Pandemic challenges for NH workforce fell especially hard on women
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Since the pandemic, women have left the workforce at a higher rate than men, in part because there continues to be a shortage of affordable child care, according to a new report from the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

In addition, the industries that have a higher percentage of female workers are recovering more slowly than those with more men, such as construction, the report said.

The report provides the latest picture of the state’s workforce shortage and identifies opportunities to use federal pandemic aid to mitigate employment barriers, particularly for low- and moderate-income residents.

“Targeted investments can make an important contribution to helping Granite Staters secure affordable housing, high-quality employment opportunities, and accessible, reasonably priced child care services,” the report stated. “Key investments can also help create a more resilient, equitable, and inclusive economy that uplifts all Granite Staters.”

Women in the workforce were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, according to the report.

  • In the first quarter of 2020, 78.1% women ages 20 to 24 were working. That had dropped to 64.6% during the first quarter of 2022.
  • During that same time period, the percentage of women ages 25 to 35 with jobs had gone from 85.5% to about 76%.

The report identified two prime reasons:

  1. Women made up more of the workforce in industries particularly hard hit, which included health care, education, and leisure and hospitality.
  2. The burden of insufficient affordable child care fell harder on women, the report stated.

In 2020, the average price of center-based child care for a toddler in New Hampshire was about $12,600, according to research cited in the report. That equaled 10% of median income for a married couple with children under 18 at home. For a single female, that equaled 33% of yearly income.

And a shortage of child care before the pandemic remains a problem, according to the analysis. In a 2021 study, the state Department of Health and Human Services found that the 33,000 licensed child care slots fell short of the 21,000 children under 6 in need of child care by 39%.

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Two industries have made significant comebacks since the start of the pandemic: Construction employment is up 9.1%, and professional and business jobs grew 10.5%, the analysis found. Meanwhile, hospitality and leisure employment is 6.4% below pre-pandemic levels; health care and education jobs are down 4.7%.

Two significant barriers remain as the desperate employers look for workers. Housing is scarce and unaffordable, and there remains a shortage of affordable child care, the report stated.

The median price of a single-family home climbed 55% from the month before the pandemic, to $450,000 in July 2022. The median prices for a condo saw nearly the same increase.

Renters face a similar challenge, the report found. Nearly 90% of two-bedroom apartments in the state are above the affordable housing rate, calculated at 30% of income.

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The report recommends the state use some of its remaining $212 million in pandemic assistance to invest in expanding workforce and affordable housing and affordable child care.

The report, “Key Challenges Facing Granite State Workers Amid the COVID-19 Economic Recovery,” is available at nhfpi.org.

This story was produced by the editorially independent New Hampshire Bulletin, which is not affiliated with Granite Memo. The headline that appears on this page were added by Granite Memo.