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Women and COVID-induced unemployment

June 23, 2022
By: Conor Gowder

A recent paper published at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (FRBA) highlighted that unlike prior recessions where men experienced unemployment at higher rates, COVID-19 had a much greater effect on women. Women constituted nearly 60 percent of net job loss despite making up 47 percent of pre-pandemic employment. Even among women, job loss was not uniform, with women who are also people of color experiencing even greater negative impacts.

Sarah Miller, the paper’s author, found that in April 2020, at the onset of COVID-induced unemployment, the unemployment level for all women was 15.1 percent, lower than both Hispanic (19.8 percent) and Black (15.8 percent) women but higher than white women (14.6 percent). This can be attributed to Latinas holding a significantly larger number of jobs displaced by the pandemic, and Black women being less likely to hold jobs with an option to work remotely.

According to Miller, a key reason for these trends affecting labor force participation is the need to care for children. Prime-age workers, especially those who are women, saw a disproportionately negative impact on their employment levels during the pandemic, with FRBA research attributing much of the impact to having young children in-house; women with children aged 6 or under accounted for 10 percent of pre-pandemic employment but 25 percent of COVID-induced unemployment.

Women, especially women of color, were forced by the pandemic to choose between their families and careers as they were not afforded the flexibility of remote work, the report says.

These gendered and intersectional points of data oftentimes get overshadowed by major trends and headlines despite their major importance, Miller states, noting that if the national unemployment rate was that same as that experienced among women, there would be significantly more concern.

For those interested in exploring more of these trends and data, the FRBA has created the Labor Force Participation Dynamics Tool and Labor Report First Look tools.

women, unemployment