In April, statistics analyzed by Fuller Project for International Reporting determined that women were most impacted by coronavirus-related layoffs, especially because the industries most impacted—restaurants, retail stores, hospitality businesses—are often staffed by majority women workers. Around the same time, the National Women’s Law Center found that women who kept their jobs during covid-19 were more likely to be living in poverty. The following month, The Wall Street Journal reported that when the unemployment rate jumped from 4.4 percent in April to 14.7 in May, the rate of growth was disproportionate across genders: 16.2 percent among women to men’s 13.5 percent. Clearly, women have suffered as the economy has. With school back in session and childcare options largely nonexistent, many women have been forced to leave the labor force, many for good. Four months later, and conditions continue to be dire.
According to a news release from U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, seen below, the unemployment rate among women over the age of 20 in September 2020 was 7.7 percent, compared to men’s 7.4 percent. The unemployment rate for adult Latinas and Black women, however, remains above 10 percent. As economist Michael Madowit pointed out on Twitter, “This month is a disaster for working women. 865k women dropped out of the labor force. 216k men did.”
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, women between the ages of 25 and 54 are increasingly dropping out of the workforce, primarily to take care of children—which has been “characterized by some economists as the nation’s first female recession.” Nearly seven million Americans have left the workforce to take care of their children during covid, and because women, on average, continue to earn less than men, it is mothers who’re more often forced to leave their careers. Of course, in doing so, the gender pay gap will only continue to get worse. According to Northwestern University economics professor Matthias Doepke, the gap will likely widen two full percentage points.
“We just cannot get out of this—the hole that we’re in,” senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute Heidi Shierholz told The Inquirer, “in any reasonable way, without doing huge scarring, without a much stronger care infrastructure.” Happy days!