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Caregiving Keeps Americans from Rejoining Workforce

Millions of Americans are out of work because they are at home caring for sick or aging parents, spouses, or siblings, according to The Washington Post (subscription).

The challenge: “At least 6.6 million people who weren’t working in early March said it was because they were caring for someone else, according to the most recent Household Pulse Survey from the Census Bureau. Whether—and when—they return to work will play a role in the continued recovery and could reshape the post-covid labor force.”

By the numbers: Four times as many people are out of the workforce due to caring for spouses, siblings, aging parents and grandchildren than are out of the workforce caring for their own children. After early retirement, caregiving is the biggest challenge keeping people out of work.

  • In the next 20 years, the number of Americans older than 65 will double and the number older than 85 will quadruple. An aging population, combined with more serious medical needs brought on by the pandemic, has contributed to the surge in at-home caregiving.

Why it matters: The American worker shortage is contributing to high inflation rates as available jobs far outnumber potential workers. The economy is still short about 1.6 million workers from pre-pandemic levels, and about one-quarter of workers missing from early 2020 cite caregiving as the reason they are currently out of work.

  • In interviews with more than a dozen workers who quit their jobs to care for family members, nearly all said they weren’t considering a return to work anytime soon. The lack of home care options, combined with the risk of in-person work, made it just about impossible for them to go back, they said.

Care worker shortage: Part of the reason so many Americans have left work for at-home caregiving duties is that residential care facilities and nursing homes have become more expensive due to a worker shortage. According to Labor Department data, U.S. care facilities have 405,500 fewer employees than they did before the pandemic, a 12% drop. While other sectors are adding jobs quickly in 2022, hiring at nursing homes and residential care facilities decreased in March.

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