Many factory workers are staying home to watch children who aren’t at day care or school because of the coronavirus pandemic, in another challenge to U.S. manufacturers working to rev up assembly lines.
Orders and output for many manufacturers are recovering as factories reopen and consumers buy electronics for remote working and supplies to fix up their homes. But some factories say the challenge of keeping workers on the line is threatening the recovery. U.S. industrial production rose for the fourth consecutive month in August, the Federal Reserve said on Tuesday, but the increase was much slower than earlier in the summer.
Nearly half of manufacturers said child-care constraints made it difficult to recall furloughed workers or hire new ones in August, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia survey of companies in its region. The number of open manufacturing jobs in July rose back to pre-pandemic levels, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said last week. It is unclear exactly how many manufacturing workers are staying home or not applying for open jobs across the country.
Manufacturers are shifting worker schedules, adding on-site day care and helping employees find other child-care arrangements as they work to increase output.
Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., which remained open during the pandemic because its aircraft carriers and submarines were deemed essential by federal and state authorities, said half of its shipyard workers in Virginia and Mississippi didn’t show up to work some days in April. A quarter remained away most days in July. The company, which employs more than 40,000 people, said the absentee rate remains above the norm, which is typically under 10%.