Danielle Chan, Newsletter Co-Editor
The Covid-19 pandemic has driven many out of the workforce and into unemployment. Despite both men and women facing a drastic loss of jobs and economic instability, women have been disproportionately taking a much more devastating hit in the labor force. As opposed to the Great Recession, in which 70% of men working primarily in manufacturing and construction industries lost their jobs, the economic and financial crisis created by the pandemic is nearly two times as worse as what America faced from 2007-2009.
Over 50% of hospitality, leisure, retail, education, government, and health care employees are women. And some think that because these industries took the largest hits during the pandemic, women are in a worse place with unemployment. In addition, the shutting down of both daycare centers and schools has increased the difficulties of working parents as they are now obligated to tend to their children at home.
On January 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released finalized 2020 job reports that displayed a loss of 140,000 jobs in December alone. Since a hasty recovery in the workforce in May, women have accounted for 100% of the job losses in December. Losing 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000, a total of 154,000 black women alone took the brunt of the losses. Since February, there have been nearly 2.1 million fewer women in the workforce than there were before Covid-19 struck.
The report indicates that, ages 20 and over, one in 12 black women (8.4%) and one in 11 Hispanic women (9.1%) remain unemployed as of right now. Additionally, 38.3% and 40.8% of black and Latina women ages 16 and over, respectively, have been subject to long-term unemployment, while 44% of Asian women of the same age range have been unemployed for 6 months or longer. Of the 12.1 million jobs women lost between months February and April, approximately 40% have not been replaced or returned.
Despite making up 48.5% of the retail industry, which saw an increase in 120,500 job offerings last month, women only took up 44.2% of such jobs. On the other hand, both hospitality and leisure industries faced a loss of 498,000 jobs, where women made up 56.6% of these losses while accounting for 53.1% of the workforce. Women also comprise 57.5% of the government labor force, and yet accounted for 91.1% of a total loss of 498,000 jobs in December. Holding 77% of jobs in the education and health sectors, women made up 83% of job losses in those services.
Just months after women reached the majority and outnumbered men in the American workforce for the second time, this gain was wiped out due to the pandemic. However, Dr. Ray Perryman, both CEO and president of The Perryman Group, believes that though “the path to recovery will likely take a couple of years,” a safe re-opening of the economy should lead to brighter outcomes, when he thinks “we should see women regaining lost jobs to a large extent and the gap between unemployment rates for men and women shrinking further.”
Regardless of suggestions that the sectors in which woman make up the majority are increasingly susceptible to Covid-19 shutdowns or limitations, the gaps of equality between genders, races, and income have seen a significant expansion, and efforts to remove such differences could all be pushed back due to the pandemic and its effects on the workforce. Women faced the brunt of shattering job losses, becoming the most vulnerable population when it comes to unemployment, leading to the seeking of government aid, food banks, the sales of homes, and even a loss of health insurance during such unprecedented times.
With women losing jobs and income at a disproportionately higher rate than men who work in the same industries, yet making up over 50% of several mainstream fields, researchers are yet to be able to explain why. Is it the belief that women are more suited for home life, or the proposition that men are more well-equipped than women when it comes to the workforce? Such ideas suggest that gender, racial, and wealth inequality is still a profound matter that requires development in work fields. If equality is not a form of thought developing and permeating through the various industries, then these gaps may deepen even further despite previous efforts and successes to wipe out such differences.