The higher Ed workforce has returned to pre-pandemic levels

After more than two years of uneven recovery, America’s colleges and universities find themselves in a welcome position. After adding an estimated 23,500 workers in July, the academy added another 3,400 jobs in August, returning it to its pre-pandemic size. In total, there are an estimated 4.7 million employees in higher education institutions in the United States today, equal to the size of the workforce in early 2020—before Covid-19 caused historic furloughs, retirements, and layoffs.

The job recovery was strong in both sectors of American higher education tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private institutions employed about 11,000 more workers in August 2022 than in February 2020, and public institutions narrowly missed that pre-pandemic watermark by an estimated 700 jobs.

December 2020 was the darkest month of the pandemic in terms of cumulative job losses, with an estimated 473,000 fewer workers than eight months earlier, down nearly 10 percent. In other words, in February 2020, one in ten employees on salary had disappeared from the workforce of higher institutions by Christmas 2020.

The net job loss was so large that it erased more than a decade of job gains in the industry, with the senior workforce shrinking to the same level as in late 2008 in December 2020.

But the higher-level workforce will improve dramatically after that – if it’s in good shape – adding 330,500 workers to the workforce in the first six months of 2021 – enough to reduce the sector’s total job losses by 70 percent. However, the sector would need another 14 months clean up the remaining 30 percent, a deficit of 142,500 jobs. The job losses will eventually go away to blame due to reduced services and supply chain woes on many campuses, as well wide spread to burn through among the remaining employees.

According to estimates compiled by the US Department of Labor, America’s colleges and universities had not lost so many employees at such an incredible rate before the announcement of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The return of higher-ed to pre-pandemic employment levels lagged behind a similar recovery in the broader economy. After adding 528,000 workers in July, the country’s collective payrolls fully recovered the number of jobs lost during the pandemic.

Although estimates of the number of college and university employees are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these data do not include information on other classes of employees, such as those employed by companies that contract with academic institutions to prepare meals and clean rooms. and who may have lost their jobs due to reduced business with academic institutions.

A year from the pandemic, the author of the analysis Chronicle identified a number of changes in the upper-level workforce—most notably, that workers of color suffered a a disproportionate share job losses compared to the total workforce in the sector.

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