Women Account for Nearly Two-Thirds of Pandemic-Era Job Losses — How Recovery Compares to Men

Worker wearing a facemask at the office while holding a box with her belongings after being fired stock photo
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If you scrolled through the Facebook feeds of family and friends — especially women — at the height of the pandemic, you may have suspected that women bore the brunt of pandemic-related stress. If you’re a mom, you likely felt the stress, even while providing emotional support to friends and peers facing the same struggles. Many women had to leave their jobs — even those working remotely — to care for and, often, educate or assist school-age children with virtual or remote learning.

It wasn’t just your imagination or circumstantial evidence that made it seem like women were hit harder than men during the pandemic as far as job loss goes. A new report from the National Women’s Law Center revealed that women account for 63.3% of all job losses since February 2020. At the height of the pandemic in April 2020, 45% of mothers of school-age children were not working, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Another study, the KFF Women’s Health Survey, revealed that 30% of working mothers said they took time off during the pandemic because school or day care was closed.

As the economy continues its recovery, however, unemployment levels are beginning to drop. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that more than 1 million men ages 20+ rejoined the active labor force in January. But only 39,000 women of the same ages entered the workforce.  

The workforce experienced tremendous growth in January 2022, gaining nearly half a million (467,000) jobs in the first month of the year. But just 40.3% of these jobs went to women. While men have regained all their labor workforce losses since February 2020, it would take 10 months of growth on the same trajectory experienced in January 2022 for women to reach pre-pandemic levels of employment, according to a report from the National Women’s Law Center.

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In January 2022, the report said, 26.3% of women 20+ had been out of work for six months or longer. If women who left the workforce since February 2020 were counted toward unemployment rates, the unemployment rate for women would be 5.0%, instead of the reported 3.6%.

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