The coronavirus recession is devastating to America’s labor market. Besides, by almost every measure, it’s worse for women than any previous economic slump. The scale of the crisis is unlike anything since the Great Depression. For the first time in decades, this crisis has a predominantly nonwhite, female face. The biggest reason for these losses is that the industries hardest hit by the pandemic — leisure, hospitality, education, and even some parts of health care — are disproportionately nonwhite and female. Past recessions hit male-dominated industries harder. However, this time is different.
The American jobs report showed the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, as we previously mentioned. The US economy shed an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs in April alone. This pushed the unemployment rate to 14.7%. It is the highest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began to track monthly data in 1948. But it was worse for women.
Understand some factors about the global recession and why it is so bad for women
The unemployment rate for women climbed to 15.5%, while the rate for men increased to 13%, according to the BLS. Women of color were especially hard hit by the job losses, with the April unemployment rates reaching 16.4% for black women and 20.2% for Hispanic women.
Women were already at a disadvantage before the pandemic hit, for several reasons. They disproportionately hold lower-paying jobs in those hospitality and retail sectors. U.S. women were also more likely to work part-time or hold multiple positions at once.
Economists say the hospitality sector may take much longer to recover from the recession as consumers remain wary of public health risks from restaurants and movie theaters.
A further major complication: Women also still carry a disproportionate responsibility for child care, which could make their return to the workforce difficult or impossible as schools stay closed and summer activities are canceled. Overall, mass layoffs could lead to deteriorating conditions for the worldwide labor market as a whole.
Experts say it’s unlikely that those jobs will snap right back when states reopen because much of the recovery will depend on consumers who are already skittish and financially struggling.
With no vaccine or cure yet we just don’t know how people are going to feel about going back to their favorite restaurants. All of the uncertainty only reinforces the need for more support and protection for women and families. Women were making some real gains but now there’s this huge step back with the recession.