The U.S. Labor Department reports that 701,000 workers were laid off in March due to COVID-19, with almost 60 percent of those being women. Earlier this year, women had overtaken men to make up the majority of the national workforce, but layoffs have put them back in the minority.
Stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closures have strained the service industry, where women are the majority of the workforce. Workers in this sector have faced high rates of furloughs and layoffs as businesses struggle to stay afloat with severely reduced income. “What we see now is a service sector recession that is disproportionately impacting women,” said C. Nicole Mason, the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Businesses like restaurants, bars, hotels, retail stores, and salons have been hit hard, along with the tourism industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report shows that child day care services lost 19,000 jobs in March, and women represent 94 percent of workers in that sector. This is a stark contrast to the 2008 recession, which struck male-dominated industries first.
Minorities are likely also experiencing disproportionate unemployment rates. Latinx and Black workers represent a large portion of hotel, foodservice, and custodial employees, all of which have seen significant layoffs.
The BLS’s March data does not include the nearly 10 million people who filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the end of March and beginning of April. Those numbers indicate a likely unemployment rate of about 18 percent for adults, with higher rates estimated for minorities and teens.
Sources: Yahoo 4/7/20; NPR 4/8/20; CNN 4/4/20