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Child care a major factor in women leaving jobs during the pandemic

Working mothers disproportionately hit by pandemic
Working mothers disproportionately impacted by pandemic 02:10

White Plains, New York — More than 2 million women have left their jobs in the past year, bringing women's participation in the labor force to the lowest level in more than 30 years. For many, child care was a major factor.

Nicole Johnson worked as a full-time teaching assistant in Scarsdale, New York, until the coronavirus pandemic shuttered her school. She was out of a job, surviving on unemployment.

"I was crying. I was literally crying all the time or I was just frustrated," she said.

In the fall, just as her daughter Khloe was starting second grade remotely, Johnson was offered her job back.

"I'm a single mom," Johnson said. "I cannot leave a 6-year-old home by herself. So it wasn't a choice."

Johnson could not afford child care for Khloe while she worked because "that would take away what I need to take care of my necessity bills," she said. 

Nicole Johnson and her daughter Khloe.  CBS News

The National Women's Law Center released a report Tuesday exclusively to CBS News that shows the devastating economic toll COVID-19 is having on women, who lost almost one million more jobs than men during the pandemic. Working mothers were more likely to have jobs impacted by the pandemic, especially those in education, hospitality and retail.

"We have lost tremendously in this pandemic. That's been more true for Black women and for Latino women who are more likely to be frontline workers," said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women's Law Center.

"We have never been tasked with the really impossible thing of working and caregiving and in some cases home schooling all at the same time," she said. "I have a real worry around what women will face as they attempt to re-enter work."

Johnson said there are not enough affordable child care options and that it will "take time" for working mothers to bounce back. Once her daughter is back in the classroom, she said, she'll be ready to send out her resume.

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