By Hayleigh Colombo
It’s hard to say if 2021 should be primarily considered a year of economic recovery from Covid-19, or a year that revealed more gaps and challenges in Central Ohio’s economy.
Columbus economist Bill LaFayette of Regionomics LLC says both are true.
“The pandemic loomed over everything, but we saw a pretty good comparison to 2020,” LaFayette said. “But in part that was because 2020 was so lousy.”
While employment levels in the Columbus metropolitan area grew at a strong clip this past year, LaFayette said, “we’re still not back to where we were.”
The Columbus metropolitan area, for example, is up by more than 2% in employment growth over 2020, according to LaFayette’s analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Hill said the workforce woes won’t be solved until women are able to return.
“A large part of the solution is focusing on and dealing with the barriers that women are facing,” Hill told us this fall. “The one group in the Covid-19 pandemic that’s been voluntarily leaving the labor force are people with family responsibilities.”
Because of this, childcare issues have also moved up from the back burner in terms of community conversation, as more employers are realizing that the lack of affordable childcare options in Columbus and across the state are inhibiting parents from returning to the workforce.
A recent survey of Ohio parents found that 60% of non-working or part-time working moms in the state would go back to work if they had access to childcare, according to a study conducted on behalf of advocacy group Groundwork Ohio.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said the lack of affordable childcare is “one of the great threats to our economic growth as a region.”