As Marin attempts to recover from the pandemic shutdown and its economic shock, there are two major obstacles to the recovery being speedy and full: Marin’s shrinking workforce and the failure to build workforce housing. The pandemic accelerated the shrinkage of the workforce and the housing crisis has grown. Solutions to both issues are not easy fixes.
Marin’s workforce participation rate is declining, with only about 60% of the working-eligible participating in the workforce. Marin has an outsized aging population, with many choosing to retire during the pandemic and others soon-to-be retired. The number of millennials living in Marin is the reverse – there is a shrinking number of millennials in Marin compared with the national average for this area, Population has been decreasing in Marin, one major factor being the high cost of housing. Those leaving tend to be millennials in search of workforce housing.
Most families need two incomes to live in Marin, but women were disproportionately pushed out of the workforce primarily due to a lack of childcare. During the pandemic about 50% of the childcare slots were lost while costs increased. We need to help women return to the workforce to help ease the labor shortage.
These factors – high number of older workers, shrinking number of younger workers, low workforce participation and cuts to childcare – greatly impact the availability of the workforce to meet the job demands of Marin’s employers. And when the lack of workforce housing is added to the mix, it is easy to see the recovery of Marin’s economy will be challenging. Marin has not built new houjsing for the workforce and it fighting the housing units it has been assigned to be built by the state. The cost of this failure to build new workforce housing is employers’ inability to attract and retain employees for positions of all types.
The solutions are there if recovery is desired. Build the workforce housing so Marin’s workforce can live and work in Marin. Be more competitive in pay and benefits for in-demands workers and offer remote working options. Provide more job training to workers to fix the skills mismatch. Support the expansion of childcare, To spur recovery, Marin should be a magnet for the top talent in the Bay Area – let’s make it so!