In 2021, Families Continue to Recover From Pandemic-era Job and Income Losses

Posted March 17, 2022
Update employmentincomeloss 2022

The share of U.S. chil­dren with at least one unem­ployed par­ent dou­bled in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 out­break, from 4% in 2019 to 8% — equiv­a­lent to about 5.85 mil­lion kids. In Neva­da and Hawaii, this fig­ure reached highs of 15% and 14%, respec­tive­ly, in 2020. The U.S. per­cent­age began to recov­er in 2021, declin­ing to 6%, accord­ing to the lat­est data from the Cen­sus Bureau’s Cur­rent Pop­u­la­tion Sur­vey. These data describe chil­dren with unem­ployed par­ents who had been active­ly look­ing for work in the past month and were cur­rent­ly avail­able for work. For kids in sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies, it means that the res­i­dent par­ent was unem­ployed, and for chil­dren in two-par­ent fam­i­lies, it means that either or both par­ents were unemployed.

Fol­low­ing the same pat­tern, the unem­ploy­ment rate of par­ents jumped from 3% in 2019 to 7% in 2020, and then dropped back down to 4% in 2021. Neva­da and Hawaii, sim­i­lar to above, had the high­est parental unem­ploy­ment rates in 2020, at 12% and 11%.

Just Over 60% of U.S. Par­ents or Care­givers Are Employed in 2022

The Cen­sus Bureau also mea­sures parental and care­giv­er employ­ment through its House­hold Pulse Sur­vey, which found that, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 7, 2022, 62% of U.S. adults in house­holds with chil­dren were employed in the past week. This fig­ure fluc­tu­at­ed between 60%-65% for the last year and a half, from August 2020 to Feb­ru­ary 2022, but dipped below 60% a few times right after the start of the pan­dem­ic in May through July 2020.

At the state lev­el, parent/​caregiver employ­ment lev­els are much more wide-rang­ing. For instance, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 7, 2022, less than half (49%) of Okla­homa adults in house­holds with kids were employed in the past week, con­trast­ed by 79% in New Hamp­shire.

Fam­i­ly Reports of Lost Employ­ment Income Increas­ing in 2022

While peak parental unem­ploy­ment lev­els have par­tial­ly recov­ered since the ear­ly days of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, new data indi­cate that many fam­i­lies still are fac­ing seri­ous eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ties. The House­hold Pulse Sur­vey data from the peri­od end­ing Feb. 7, 2022, revealed that near­ly one in four (23%) U.S. house­holds with chil­dren lost employ­ment income in the past month, up from 19% in Dec. 113, 2021. State-lev­el data reflect this fam­i­ly strain, as well, with a third (32%) of Louisiana house­holds with kids los­ing employ­ment income in the lat­est 2022 peri­od, and more than a fourth of house­holds with chil­dren los­ing income in nine oth­er states.

Racial and Eth­nic Inequities in Parental Employ­ment and Lost Income

These data also show that the finan­cial hard­ships of the last two years hit some fam­i­lies of col­or hard­er than oth­ers. Nation­wide, Black, Lati­no, and two or more races/​other race house­holds with chil­dren con­sis­tent­ly had low­er esti­mates of employ­ment and high­er esti­mates of lost employ­ment income, com­pared to those for white and Asian Amer­i­can house­holds, based on House­hold Pulse Sur­vey data avail­able from 2020 to present. To illus­trate, the lat­est data from Dec. 29, 2021, to Feb. 7, 2022, show that a third (33%) of Lati­no house­holds with kids and 30% of Black and 28% of two or more races/​other race house­holds with kids lost employ­ment income in the past month, while the same was true for just 17% of white and Asian Amer­i­can households.

When par­ents expe­ri­ence unem­ploy­ment or under­em­ploy­ment, it can cause finan­cial inse­cu­ri­ty and stress, which may inter­fere with their abil­i­ty to meet children’s basic needs and pro­vide a sta­ble, nur­tur­ing home envi­ron­ment. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers and oth­er lead­ers can work togeth­er to strength­en the safe­ty net for fam­i­lies, address root caus­es of racial/​ethnic inequities and ensure that fam­i­lies have a range of sup­port ser­vices to help them pro­vide sta­bil­i­ty for their chil­dren, includ­ing acces­si­ble men­tal health care.

See More Data on Employ­ment and Eco­nom­ic Well-Being

The KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter offers a robust selec­tion of indi­ca­tors on employ­ment and eco­nom­ic well-being, with many avail­able for youth adults and by fam­i­ly nativ­i­ty and race and ethnicity.

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