North Carolina’s Economic Recovery: Time for Employers to Support Innovative Child Care Solutions

Teacher plays with blocks on floor with 4-5 young children

It was great news this month to learn about Apple’s decision to invest in a $1 billion engineering hub in the Research Triangle Park community.[1] And, to learn in March that Google will also be opening a new engineering hub in Durham.[2] More jobs for North Carolina residents? Awesome! Very welcome news for economic recovery in our state!

Unemployment in North Carolina is currently 5.2%—a significant decline from a year ago, but still far above the unemployment rate of 3.5% in January 2020.[3] About 350,500 people in North Carolina are either unemployed or have left the workforce compared to January 2020.[4] According to the most recent data from the Census Bureau weekly household pulse survey, about 129,481 individuals in North Carolina are not working due to the need to care for children not in school or child care.[5]

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, April 14-21, 2021.

Overwhelmingly, those individuals in North Carolina who say they aren’t working because they need to care for children not in school or child care are women.[6] If we are to achieve economic recovery in North Carolina, we need to support mothers’ ability to work to help support their families and contribute to the state’s economy.

Before COVID-19, ReadyNation released a study about the impact on employers when parents lack access to reliable child care for their children. According to the ReadyNation report, nationwide, employers lose $12.7 billion annually due to employee child care challenges.[7] ReadyNation also found the total economic impact of employee child care challenges resulted in $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity and revenue.[8]

The decision by Apple and Google to invest in the Research Triangle area and add thousands of jobs over the next decade is exciting news. North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Sanders said, “It means jobs, careers. It means an influx of people relocating. It means new partnerships and opportunity.”[9] 

With these new jobs, it’s likely more parents will need child care. We already know the availability and/or affordability of child care is a barrier for parents to participate in the workforce. News accounts report that Apple will invest $100 million to support N.C. schools.[10] Investment in our schools is needed. Also needed are investments in child care—parents of young children depend on it. Our schools depend on it, too.  

It’s time for new public-private partnerships to support child care. Companies such as Apple and Google could lead the way with innovative investments to support community-based child care. For example, employers could invest in:

  • A community fund to support strategies to strengthen the quality of child care and expand the supply of child care where needed
  • Contracts with community-based providers to pay for or subsidize the cost of child care for employees (for which employers can receive a federal tax credit)
  • Staffed family child care home networks to support home-based providers to offer high-quality child care
  • Child care business technical assistance to ensure child care centers and family child care homes are using business best practices (including child care management software to improve business efficiencies and help support data-driven business decisions),
  • Develop a new fund to offer grants to renovate homes for building family child care homes and building new centers
  • Support T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® scholarships with apprenticeship funds to help child care workers pursue college courses in early childhood education while receiving a paycheck

This nation has long looked to the business community for innovation. Who better than our new technology employers to model the way to support innovative solutions for our state’s child care challenges? Let’s start the conversation. Job retention and job creation—the pathway to economic recovery depends on it.

“When all children have the tools they need to succeed, we will have a healthier and stronger North Carolina for generations to come.”

—North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, 2020.

[1], Apple picks Triangle for $1 billion campus, thousands of high-paying new jobs, April 26, 2021.

[2] The News & Observer, Google to bring new engineering hub to Durham, up to 1,000 jobs as part of US expansion, March 18, 2021.

[3] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economy at a Glance.

[4] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics.

[5] U.S. Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, April 14-21, 2021.

[6] U.S. Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, Table 6, April 14-21, 2021.

[7] ReadyNation, Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis, 2019.

[8] Ibid.

[9], Apple picks Triangle for $1 billion campus, thousands of high-paying new jobs, April 26, 2021.

[10] Ibid.