Limited Supply and Lagging Enrollment: Production Technologies and Enrollment Changes at Community Colleges during the Pandemic

Weak labor markets typically lead young workers to invest in skills. High unemployment during COVID diverged from prior downturns: enrollment at community colleges dropped by 9.5 percent between 2019 and 2020, with the drop larger among men. COVID disruptions generated supply-side impacts on courses of study requiring significant capital and “hands on” experiential learning, particularly programs that deliver of assembly, repair and maintenance (ARM) skills. Community colleges that had relative concentrations of credentials in ARM fields pre-pandemic experienced relatively large enrollment declines. The decline in ARM enrollment explains nearly all the difference in enrollment declines by gender during COVID.