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COVID-19 Crisis Cost Women Millions More Jobs Than Men

by Sarah L. RyleyMay 8, 2020

Women outnumbered men in coronavirus-related job losses by an estimated 2.1 million, The Fuller Project has found in an analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report released Friday. 

Women, who make up half the workforce, lost 11.7 million nonfarm payroll jobs, and men an estimated 9.6 million nonfarm payroll jobs, from February through April, as social distancing measures intended to curb the spread of the deadly virus shuttered schools, daycares, and workplaces across the United States. These devastating numbers exclude millions of people who are self-employed or work in homes as domestic employees, and also lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

More than one-third of the jobs lost by women came from the leisure and hospitality sector — 4.4 million — with another 2.2 million from the education and health services sector, and 1.3 million from the retail sector, The Fuller Project’s analysis found. 

For men, the top sectors for job losses were leisure and hospitality (3.7 million), professional and business services (1.1 million), and construction (908,000).

The bureau now pegs the employment rate at 14.7 percent — the highest rate and largest one-month increase since the federal government first started the data series in 1948.

Unemployment rates spiked in April among all major worker groups, but more so for women — 15.5 percent, compared to 13 percent for men. 

By race and ethnicity, the bureau estimates the unemployment rate at 18.9 percent for Hispanics, 16.7 percent for blacks, 14.5 percent for Asians, and 14.2 percent for whites. The rates for all of these groups, with the exception of blacks, represent record highs since the bureau first started collecting the data.

Jonathan Wright, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, said the official unemployment rate “understates how bad this report is.” He pegged the rate at closer to 22 percent, taking into account the increase in the share of people who said they are no longer part of the workforce or are employed but absent from work.

The April 2020 employment report, based on surveys of households, workplaces and government agencies, is the first comprehensive national dataset that captures the scope of pandemic-related job losses.

The previous month’s report was based on surveys taken during the week of March 8 through 14, when social distancing measures had just started impacting the economy, but before schools and workplaces were shuttered en masse.


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