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The Latest Pandemic Supply Shock: Child Care Workers

Covid-19's "urban exodus" spawned a suburban scramble for slots in daycare centers, and the U.S. child care industry is now enduring a serious staffing shortage.  

A trio of three-year-olds at a child care center in Baltimore in January. Cities and suburbs saw a shift in demand for child care during the pandemic, straining an already stressed and fragmented system. 

A trio of three-year-olds at a child care center in Baltimore in January. Cities and suburbs saw a shift in demand for child care during the pandemic, straining an already stressed and fragmented system. 

Photographer: Matt Roth for The Washington Post via Getty Images

In the chronically underfunded U.S. child care sector, staff turnover has always been a problem — but never quite like this.

“It’s unprecedented, which has been used a lot this year, but it’s true,” says Carol Murray, 55. “I don’t think my industry has seen anything quite like it before.”

Murray directs the Abigail Lundquist Botstein Nursery School, an early childhood program at Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson in New York, which takes care of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds and operates a pop-up program for elementary school kids to accommodate half-days during partial school reopenings. Her school, and industry, are currently experiencing a now-familiar pandemic-era trial: a major labor crunch.