Nov. 16, 2022 -- Viral infections are causing unprecedented child-care strains in the United States, leading to a record number of absences from work, the federal government says.

Between the flu, RSV, COVID-19 and the common cold, parents and teachers are struggling with child-care problems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that more than 100,000 people missed work in October because of these challenges – and that’s more than at any time ever, including during the worst days of the pandemic.

“We have sick kids at the same time we have a child-care crisis — you put the two together and there just isn’t any wiggle room,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG, in The Washington Post. “People are falling through the cracks. It means missed paychecks, disruptions at home, and staffing shortages that erode productivity growth and increase costs at a time when we’re already worried about those things.”

The government says worker productivity, which is a measure of goods and services an employee can produce in an hour, took the steepest dive ever in the first half of 2022.

Employment numbers in childcare haven’t recovered from pandemic losses. The government says public schools are short almost 300,000 employees, and daycare 88,000, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The problem is straining school systems. The Post says dozens have cancelled classes in recent weeks because of so many illnesses among students and teachers alike.

The viral crisis could be due to weakened immune systems after the pandemic, and fewer schools requiring masks be worn, among other possible factors.

Show Sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Databases Tables & Calculators (Employed - With a job, not at work, Childcare problems)

The Washington Post: “RSV, covid and flu are keeping kids out of school — and parents out of work”

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