The U.S. economy lost a net 140,000 jobs in December. Overall, women lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000 jobs.
And again, this crisis is worse for women of color. The unemployment rates for black and Latina women in December were 8.4% and 9.1%, respectively. The overall unemployment rate was 6.7%. For white men, it was just 5.8%.
Of course, we’re talking about net gains and losses. There were definitely men in America who lost their jobs in December. However, as a group, men came out ahead, while more than 111% of all jobs last month were lost by women.
Women’s jobs on payroll have declined for the first time since last April. New #JobsDay data for December show a de… https://t.co/j8UtwgmxPG
— IWPR (@IWPResearch)
This wasn’t a fluke or just an unlucky month for women. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, 1 in 5 women has been forced to leave the workforce.
There are two major barriers facing working women in America.
First, job losses have been concentrated in industries with the highest proportion of women in the workforce, especially women of color.
“Nine of the ten industries that saw the most jobs lost are in the service sector, including women-dominated professions such as performing arts, sightseeing, hotels, and retail. As a result, mothers experienced greater initial increases in unemployment as compared to fathers,” wrote Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) in her report, “The Burden of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women in the Workforce.”
The U.S. has seen steep job losses in hospitality, retail, and education, where women have been disproportionately laid off.
Secondly, women are also bearing the burden of remote learning and childcare.
Porter’s study also found that mothers “were more likely than fathers to reduce their work hours, take a leave of absence from work, transition to part-time employment, or take other measures to reduce their work time and commitment.”
Over 2 million women have dropped out of the workforce since the pandemic began. That’s according to the National Women’s Law Center. Why would over 2 million women simply leave their jobs or stop looking for work? Experts believe much of it comes down to a lack of reliable childcare. As day cares have closed and schools have transitioned to remote learning or a hybrid learning model, mothers across the country have left their jobs or job searches to provide stability for their children.
“According to one study, mothers in states where schools shut down this spring were 68.8% more likely to take time off from work than mothers in states where schools were still open,” Rep. Porter observed in her report.
“School closures had no effect on whether fathers or women without children were working.”
So, the industries where women are overwhelmingly employed are seeing record job losses, thanks to the pandemic. And mothers who haven’t been laid off are being forced to cut back their hours or leave their jobs entirely in order to care for their children.
What can we do?
We can urge our lawmakers to advocate for us. They should be doing it anyway but let’s give them a reminder of what we’ve lost and what we deserve.
Rep. Porter argues that without legislative action, a generation of mothers could be left out of the workforce.
“Congress and the Administration must act now to support the safe reopening of childcare centers and schools, replace lost wages, support families, and make care more affordable and accessible. Employers must adjust their business models to accommodate the additional pressures women, and especially mothers, are experiencing in the workplace,” she writes.
C. Nicole Mason, the President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research, agrees.
“As the pandemic continues to drag on and businesses and schools remain closed, women will continue to fall out of the workforce,” Mason said in a press release. “Any economic recovery package from the new administration will have to center those most impacted—women—and include opportunities for education and training, and contain economic and child care supports.”