Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

The COVID pandemic has affected the U.S. labor force in a number of ways, many of which are still being felt today. The virus’ impact on working parents and guardians continues to have a trickle-up effect on the workforce at large, especially in New Mexico. A recent study conducted by HelpAdvisor, a national legal network dedicated to promoting healthier living and financial stability, found that 21.5 percent of New Mexico parents and guardians were forced to quit their jobs to care for a child at home based on the most recent U.S. Census data. New Mexico ranks first in parents or guardians having to quit their jobs to care for a child and has a rate seven times the national average, which stands at 3.2 percent.

“New Mexico was absolutely one of the states where it has had a bigger impact,” Content Marketing Specialist for HelpAdvisor Christian Worstell said. Worstell attributes New Mexico’s high case of parents and guardians quitting their jobs to a combination of New Mexico’s rural character and a lack of services offered by the state. “The national average was only 3.2 percent. To have New Mexico at seven times that is pretty remarkable,” Worstell commented.

Worstell noted that the exaggerated impact the pandemic has had on New Mexico was the primary motivator to conduct this study. “COVD has had a big impact on schools, daycare centers, and a lot of parents having to work from home and having to juggle childcare responsibilities. And we wanted to put some numbers to that narrative,” Worstell said. 

The next state most affected by parents or guardians quitting their jobs to care for their children was Delaware, at just over 14 percent.

Worstell attributed New Mexico’s high rate of parents quitting their jobs to the state’s economy, especially in the more rural parts of the state that rely on a resource extraction economy. Many employees in these fields may not enjoy the same benefits of working from home or have access to the same amenities as their urban counterparts do. “It might also be possible that there is just a disproportionate number of workers there that do not have access to paid time off or even unpaid time off. It could be that people live further away from work and have longer commutes which makes the logistics even more difficult of finding childcare while they’re going to work,” Worstell said. 

The study conducted by HelpAdvisor was based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s October data. Their team gathered data from 19,956 respondents from New Mexico.