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What’s Happened to the K-12 Education Labor Market During the Pandemic? 

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, policymakers and pundits have warned of a mass exodus from the teaching profession. However, insufficient data systems and collection practices, have left considerable uncertainty about what the education labor market looks like. 

In a recent working paper from Brown University, researchers Joshua Bleiberg and Matthew A. Kraft analyze data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and state education agencies to describe educator employment patterns. The authors found that between March and May 2020, K-12 public education employment decreased by 9.3 percent, with support staff experiencing the largest decline, essentially wiping out 20 years of labor expansion. However, state education agency data suggest that the predicted rates of teacher turnover have not yet materialized; in fact, turnover rates were relatively stable and may have even decreased during the 2019-20 school year. 

A large decline in K-12 employment while turnover rates remained stable is somewhat puzzling. Bleiberg and Kraft suggest this can be due to weak hiring practices in early 2020 and high attrition in staff positions that remain hard to fill. Regardless, this study ultimately demonstrates the need to build state and district longitudinal data systems and build the capacity of education agencies to analyze the data.

-Nathan Kriha