Jobs held by women accounted for all jobs lost in the U.S. in December, further widening the earnings gap and highlighting the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on women, and particularly women of color.
According to the latest report from the Labor Department released in January, the U.S. had a net loss of 140,000 jobs for the month of December.
An analysis from National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) painted an even bleaker picture. Women actually accounted for over 111% of jobs lost during the month of December, losing 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000.
More telling is the impact the pandemic is having on women of color, many of whom are more likely to work in industries that lack paid sick leave or the ability to work from.
According to the NWLC, 154,000 Black women left the workforce in December, the largest single-month drop since the beginning of the pandemic in March and April of 2020. The unemployment rate for black women in December was 8.4%, meaning more than 1 in 12 Black women aged 20 and older were out of work. While the rate was down from 9% the previous month, it was still over 1.7 times higher than the pre-pandemic level of 4.9 percent in February 2020.
More than 1 in 11 Latina women were unemployed in December for an unemployment rate of 9.1%, also more than 1.7 times higher than the 4.9 percent unemployment rate in pre-pandemic February 2020.
The unemployment rate for white women was 5.7%, lower than the unemployment rate for white men at 5.8%.
The December numbers capped a disastrous year for working women who’ve accounted for over half – 55% – of the 9.6 million jobs lost in 2020. The NWLC pointed out that nearly 2.1 million working women, including 564,000 Black women and 317,000 Latinas, left the labor force between January and December.
Lest we remind you, with women earning roughly 80 cents for every dollar a man earns, and even less for working mothers and women of color, the disparity in job losses and earnings lead to even greater disparities in lifetime earnings and in benefits earned under California's workers' compensation system.
Equity in employment has always been an issue, now clearly exacerbated by COVID-19.
As pandemic conditions allow, focusing on stimulating growth in industries largely dominated by women and most impacted by the pandemic, which include education, hospitality, and retail, will be imperative and should be a priority for lawmakers and employers everywhere.