March 8, 2021

2021: Where Have All the Women Workers Gone?

Paula Santonocito Headshot
Paula Santonocito
March 8, 2021

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International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, seems like an ideal time to look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working women.

Spoiler alert: It’s not a happy story.

Approximately 2.5 million women in the United States have left the workforce during the pandemic, compared to 1.8 million men, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shared by The New York Times.

Appcast first reported on women and job losses in June 2020, relatively early in the pandemic, pointing out that one expert had called the current recession a “shecession,” because women had shouldered more job losses. Since then, the trend has basically continued, with a few bright spots. A November 2020 LinkedIn Employer Value Proposition Survey found a surge in the share of new women hires globally.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the situation has remained mostly unchanged.

Why women

There are several reasons why U.S. women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Women hold the majority of jobs in sectors that have experienced significant job losses. In the Accommodation subsector (hotels, motels, resorts, etc.) of Leisure and Hospitality, 59% of employees are women, according to the BLS. In Retail, numerous subsectors employ far more women than men; for example, 71.5% of clothing store employees are women.

But disproportionate job losses are not solely to blame. Government assistance has been a factor as well. As Appcast previously reported, unemployment benefits coupled with other government financial support resulted in some unemployed workers earning more money than they earned while working.

Health concerns are also top of mind for many unemployed workers. Customer-facing positions, like those in Hospitality and Retail, are less attractive during a pandemic.

Finally, lack of child care / remote learning is a major issue. In fact, Axios cites a new report that finds where at the start of the pandemic “caring for children not in school or daycare” was the number five reason for not working, it is now number three.

Axios sums up other findings from the report this way: “Prices at child care centers have gone up nearly 50% since the onset of the pandemic due to increased sanitization and staffing costs, making them unaffordable for many Americans. And the 56% of Americans who rely on relatives or grandparents to take care of their kids can no longer do so because it’s unsafe. So more and more parents — especially mothers — are dropping out of the labor force for their children.”

Addressing the issues

There are solutions to these issues, which include:

  • Reopening schools
  • Providing safe, affordable child care for younger children
  • Putting workplace safety protocols in place to address health concerns

And of course, ultimately, inoculating people against the virus.

The United States is making progress on all fronts, which should help unemployed women (and men) move forward.

How quickly business as usual resumes, though, is anybody’s guess. Late summer? Fall? Early 2022?

For unemployed women and men, a brighter future can’t come soon enough.

Editor’s note: The Appcast 2021 Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report provides insight into the 2020 employment landscape through the lens of job advertising. The data-rich report includes, among other things, information about specific industries/job functions.

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