Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress finds that the coronavirus recession is the first recession since the advent of modern U.S. employment statistics for women in which women have lost more jobs than men, leading some to refer to this recession as a “she-cession.” While in every previous recession on record, women lost less than one job for every job that men lost, between February and April, women lost more than 12.1 million jobs while men lost just more than 10 million. There is also evidence that many of these job losses will be long-lasting. The last time women’s employment-to-population ratio was this low was in 1986. Following that low, it took nearly a decade for women’s employment rates to reach pre-recession levels.
Women of color have lost their jobs at higher rates than their white counterparts. Black women’s employment fell 18.2 percent from its peak compared with 16.7 percent for white women. Asian American women have gone from having the lowest unemployment rate in February at 3 percent—tied with white women—to 15.9 percent at peak unemployment. Latina women have also experienced dramatic employment and labor force declines, with job losses out of phase with the rest of the recovery.
The brief finds several reasons why the recession has disproportionately harmed women, especially women of color:
- Unlike previous recessions, job losses were disproportionately concentrated in the service sector, which employs more women than men.
- Women perform the majority of unpaid care work. The closure of schools and child care centers has caused women to leave paid employment to perform unpaid care work. In fact, labor market recovery worsened significantly for women as the school year approached and 865,000 million women left the labor force in September.
“There is no doubt that the Trump administration’s failure to get the virus under control has disproportionately hurt women,” said Michael Madowitz, economist at the Center for American Progress. “What’s needed now are bold, long-term policies that not only center good jobs for women, but that provide support for caregiving responsibilities, such as paid leave and affordable child care. Otherwise, 2020 could become the year in which women’s employment is set back a full generation.”
Read the issue brief: “The Shambolic Response to the Public Health and Economic Crisis Has Women on the Brink as the Job Recovery Stalls” by Michael Madowitz and Diana Boesch
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcisucj.