In April, it was believed that women were going to be hit hardest by the layoffs resulting from circumstances related to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. At the time, the hospitality industry, restaurants, and retail stores were being most heavily impacted by coronavirus related closures, a reality that has only continued to proliferate since. Consequently, those industries, in addition to other service-related fields, and education, have been those most plagued by layoffs, the majority of which have impacted women, confirming the predictions from April.
Although for the majority of the pandemic women have made up the largest section of the workforce on the front lines, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, this heightened presence in the workforce, in addition to much of the work happening in service-related industries, has also made them more vulnerable to layoffs.
In the last two weeks of March, 8.7 million Americans filed new unemployment claims and as of April, the unemployment rate lept to 14.7% from 4.4%, with the rate being 16.2% among women to men’s 13.5%.
According to WSJ, during a typical recession (is anyone else upset by the fact that recessions are frequent enough we can identify a typical vs. non-typical recession?) married women who haven’t been working have traditionally entered the workforce to supplement their husband’s loss of income, given that men have been more greatly impacted by recessions past. Today, that is no longer the case. Many of the industries women would enter are those that are laying off employees in droves right now, many of whom are women. This is a devastating reality that will impact entire households and families should both providers find themselves unable to work.
As with gender inequality and the pay gap, women of color have found themselves disproportionally impacted by the current circumstances. Black women 20 and over are currently unemployed at a rate of 16.4%, while for Hispanic women the rate is 20.2%. White women’s unemployment rate is at 15%.
Should a return to work one day be possible, the report also notes just how difficult that return will be, particularly for working mothers, as thousands of childcare facilities across the county have shut down completely. Stefania Albanesi, a University of Pittsburgh professor of economics might have just said it best, “Every recession is a ‘mancession’ except this one.”