NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact labor markets across the country and as the economy recovers, not everyone is ready to jump back into the workforce.
Arkansas much like many other states has seen a drop in labor participation and those numbers tend to be slightly higher among women during the pandemic.
Secretary of Commerce, Mike Preston says there are many factors keeping women home and the most common one is childcare.
Preston says during the pandemic when schools and daycares closed it forced families to make tough decisions. Many moms decided to stay home to care for their children.
Melissa Nash is one of those moms. She says she weighed out the options for her family and it made more sense for her to stay home and take care of her son while her husband, who’s the breadwinner works.
Nash who worked in education says this transition was not easy.
She says the pandemic brought many things to light including that teachers and many women-dominated industries are often underpaid. Moreover, when her family considered the cost of child care and the risk of exposure to the coronavirus leaving her job became more clear.
She also found that the pandemic created a need for a new work culture that is more flexible for families.
“Now we realized there are more things we can do at home… And I think more people are looking for home options especially moms. I know a lot of moms, I have a lot of friends who are doing online teaching and online tutoring helping businesses,” said Nash.
Nash says there are challenges to going down to a one household income. Her family is being more intentional about their spending and have to budget differently.
Her advice to families before making a decision like this is to do their research, check their finances and expenses and make the decision that works best for them.
Nash says for now being home is the best way to support her husband and their child.
Preston says this is a good time to jump back into the workforce. He adds that the economy is turning around, job growth is up and it’s important to have a diverse workforce.
“We want more people, more ideas, more collaborations among all parties and all individuals. We really want to see those numbers level out where we see just as many women as we see men in the workforce,” said Preston.
Preston tells me there are resources available through the Department of Health and Human Services to help families with childcare.
He says more companies are also finding ways to offer childcare services to their employees.
Preston says there are a lot of opportunities for women. He adds as kids go back into the classroom, and with child care facilities back to full capacity it’s going to give women more flexibility to go back to work.