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Jobs report: Education sector rebound dominated July report, with caveats

After a year of job losses amid remote schooling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. education sector appears to be bouncing back as job gains jumped in July.

The U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Labor Department's July jobs report, and about quarter of those jobs were in education. Local government education jobs rose by 221,000 and private education jobs by 40,000 — about 27% of the overall number.

Fluctuations in staffing amid the pandemic "have distorted the normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns, likely contributing to the job gains in July," the BLS report stated. "Without the typical seasonal employment increases earlier, there were fewer layoffs at the end of the school year, resulting in job gains after seasonal adjustment."

And education still has a long way to go before making a full recovery: Since February last year, employment is still down by 205,000 in local government education and 207,000 in private education.

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"There's a big teacher shortage now and we're going to know more and more in the next few days," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). "There's been this new jobs report, and there's been more hiring back of educators and support personnel in one month than we've seen, I think, in decades."

Weingarten added that "we're hearing about the shortages that we normally have. Shortages for special [education] teachers, shortages for bilingual teachers in science and math... Shortages of school nurses, shortages of guidance counselors — they're getting more exacerbated."

Schools lay off workers seasonally, but this time those numbers were smaller because they happened last year, Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told Yahoo Finance.

Additionally, after schools across the country reopen in September and they "hire fewer workers than expected due to the ongoing pandemic, then we may see the opposite effect where seasonally adjusted education payrolls decline in September.”

Underlying the education sector comeback is the coronavirus pandemic, which means that not all employees are keen to get back to school.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 22:  (L-R) Principal Alice Hom and teacher Laura Lai look over the recently arrived Class of 2021 yearbook at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 on July 22, 2021 in New York City. Positive COVID-19 cases in some New York City public schools have resulted in classroom quarantines.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Principal Alice Hom and teacher Laura Lai look over the Class of 2021 yearbook at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 on July 22, 2021 in NYC. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

"I did sign the letter stating I would return in September but I am finally now looking to go work elsewhere," a paraprofessional in New Jersey told Yahoo Finance. "Reason being we get no benefits, nor do we get any paid days off, and just feel like we’re not protected enough in the school against the virus."

(Paraprofessionals assist teachers and classrooms in various ways.)

New Jersey reported 1,164 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths on Wednesday, and the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide rose to just under 600.

"I do have some concerns about going back to school, especially being around those who are unvaccinated, and I know the school is not as clean as they claim it is," the paraprofessional said. "I know myself and the teachers are concerned about going back full time especially now with this variant going around."

She added that last year was "a disaster" as teachers tried to cater to both remote and in-person schooling. "It will be quite a challenge this year with full days," she added.

Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance covering student debt and higher education. If you are on an income share agreement for your bachelor’s or master’s degree and would like to talk about your experience, reach out to her at aarthi@yahoofinance.com.

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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