In Mass., signs of employment growth
Child care business bounces back as parents return to work
In the darkest days of the last recession, it seemed that every week another set of parents would come to Little Sprouts Day Care centers to tell teachers they had lost jobs and would have to take their children out of day care.
But as jobs have come back over the past several months, so have the kids — enough that Little Sprouts, which operates 16 centers in Greater Boston, had nine available jobs for day-care workers in recent months, with more openings expected.
“We have a lot of babies enrolling right now,” said Erica Reed, Little Sprouts’ director of recruiting. “It has been difficult to stay ahead of the hiring.”
The rebound in enrollment and hiring at day care businesses such as Little Sprouts is among the indicators of an improving economy in Massachusetts. Day care is very much tied to the job market; when more people are working, more put their children in daycare.
Since the labor market hit bottom in 2010, day care has increased employment at more than double the pace of the state’s overall job growth and surpassed its prerecession employment peak, according to state employment data. In May the industry employed more than 24,000 workers, a gain of more than 1,000 jobs, or about 5 percent, from two years earlier.
“That suggests that there are more families with kids who are working,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economics professor at Northeastern University. The state data only capture employment at licensed day care centers and excludes independent or “family” day care providers
Bright Horizons, the Watertown day care chain, said it is opening new locations worldwide, including partnerships with employers that offer on-site day care at corporate offices. As a result, the company, has hired about 20 percent more workers this year than in 2010.
David Lissy, the company’s chief executive, said that the slowly improving economy has contributed to the growth of the Bright Horizon’s workforce. He noted that the most US hiring has occurred at the company’s centers in Massachusetts, the San Francisco Bay area, and Texas, all areas that have experienced solid job growth during the past year.
“At the downturn, we saw a moderate reduction in enrollment in our centers and now, in the course of the last 18 months, that’s rebounded and rebounded nicely,” Lissy said. “We’ve begun to hire at a more significant pace than in the past.”
The company also hired more than 100 new employees in its corporate office in Massachusetts in the last year, including administrative, IT and marketing hires.
Overall, Massachusetts’ employers have added more than 80,000 jobs since the state labor market hit bottom more than two years ago. Unemployment in the state, meanwhile, has declined steadily. A year ago, the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent; last month it fell to 6 percent, more than two percentage points below the national rate of 8.2 percent.
Rachel Fish’s husband is among the newly employed. He was laid off in early 2011 while working for a health care research firm but landed a new job last spring with a social media marketing company.
The new income has allowed the couple, who live in Waltham, to increase the amount of time their two children spend in day care by six hours a week.
“Those extra hours are very useful — it enables me to get work done,” said, Fish, 32, who is finishing her doctorate in history at Brandeis University while working part-time at the school. “Of course, we’re still burning the candle at both ends.”
New jobs for families such as Fish’s have meant more work for Danielle DeCarlo. In 2008, when the recession was worsening, DeCarlo was only able to find a part-time day care position that paid less than $200 a week.
What a difference four years makes. In February, DeCarlo, 22, found a full-time day care job at the Little Sprouts center in Brighton — just two weeks after launching a job search.
Now she makes more than double what she earned in her last job, commuting from Winthrop to Brighton with her 2-year-old daughter, who is enrolled in the Little Sprouts’ day care program.
“Money-wise, it’s great,” DeCarlo said, as she tended to the needs of three babies on a recent morning. “I’m not sitting at home.”
Megan Woolhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.