The U.S. Workforce Lost 5 Million Women in 2020

The U.S. Workforce Lost 5 Million Women in 2020

The U.S. workforce has lost more than 5 million women in 2020, according to analysis of the latest round of statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The headlines of the report include the fact that the U.S. workforce continued to shed job numbers for the month of December, losing a total of 140,000 jobs. It’s being reported that women accounted for a net loss of 156,000 jobs, while men gained a net 16,000 jobs. 

“In other words, women accounted for 100% of the labor market’s first month of losses since a tepid recovery began in May,” according to Forbes’ Maggie McGrath.

If we compare the latest dataset to numbers from December of 2019, a time where females actually held a slight majority in the number of women in the workplace. 

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McGrath continues to explain that “if you compare the number of nonfarm payroll positions held by women at the start of 2020 to those held by women at the end of the year, American women lost more than 5 million jobs in the course of 12 months.” 

Claire Ewing-Nelson, analyst with the National Women’s Law Center has said that the fact that “women were over 100% of the [December] losses is a stark top line, but one thing we’ve been keeping an eye on is the data on long-term unemployment, and we’re seeing among women who are unemployed, almost 40% have been out of work for six months or longer.” 

Ewing-Nelson continued to explain that “it’s not just that women are losing jobs, it’s that they lost them months ago and haven’t been able to find work.” 

Figures from the National Women’s Law Center estimate that more than 2.1 million that have left the U.S. workforce since the beginning of the pandemic, and are unlikely to be looking for more work opportunities. 

In total, the unemployment rate for women in the U.S. according to December numbers stands at 6.3%, but breaking this figure down by demographics shows that minority women have exited the workforce most in 2020. 

8.4% of African American women are currently unemployed, while 9.1% of Latina women are unemployed. These record-breaking numbers are likely connected to government restrictions resulting in a downturn of trade for the hospitality, leisure, accommodation and retail industries. 

The National Women’s Law Center says that the leisure and hospitality industries alone lost nearly 500,000 jobs for the month of December. Of those jobs lost, women made up the majority, accounting for 56.6% of the job losses while representing more than 53.1% of those industry’s workforces. 

“Whereas usually we think of recessions as hitting more male-dominated industries, this time the demand for workers was particularly low for jobs in which women are more highly represented,” Tara Sinclar, associate professor of economics at George Washington University said. 

Sinclair added that the problem was being compounded by the fact that women are expected to take on a carer’s role, which is particularly problematic with the closure of schools throughout the year and a shift to online learning. 

The U.S. Workforce Lost 5 Million Women in 2020

Sinclair says that this move to online education for school children meant that “women were basically forced into leaving their employment or cutting their hours.” 

“The last time we saw 49.2% was back in about 2008…. So even though women have kind of regained their relative role to men, by the end of the year, that doesn’t make up for the fact that they had starkly lower unemployment earlier in the year.” 

The latest round of employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics mirrors the findings of a report from the International Monetary Fund who found that “demand for jobs for women has fallen disproportionately more than for men.” 

“Low-skilled workers are likely to fall further behind,” said the IMF. 

The IMF pointed to data from online employment listings that found “jobs with higher rates of female workers had 40% fewer postings, compared to 35% fewer postings for male-dominated positions,” according to Forbes.

Associate professor Sinclar pointed out that the recovery for women could take even longer, due to the fact that “when they are looking for work again, are they going to take the first job they can get? This could be a lower-paying job with worse benefits.” 

“You could see the wage gap between men and women stalling or getting starker,” Sinclair concluded. 

The U.S. Workforce Lost 5 Million Women in 2020

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