Respect Equality

US cut 140,000 jobs in December. All were held by women, while men gained employment

Story at a glance

  • All of the jobs lost in December were held by women, a continuing trend seen since the onset of the pandemic.
  • Experts say this is due to women — especially women of color — working in more vulnerable industries.

Data released on Friday from the U.S. Department of Labor showed a disturbing setback for women in the workforce; of the 140,000 jobless claims reported in December, women accounted for all of the job losses recorded that month.

Payroll employment reported to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and analyzed by CNN reveals that women suffered all of the 156,000 job losses, while their male counterparts gained 16,000.

Beneath this gender disparity was another problematic difference in job loss; Black and Latinx women lost more jobs in December than their white female counterparts. 

Notably, both men and women have lost scores of jobs since the onset of the pandemic. This recent data reflects that men attained 16,000 jobs while women saw none — emphasizing the net gain men had whereas women in the workforce saw none. 

Economists attribute these losses to women generally working in more vulnerable economic sectors that are sensitive to disruption, such as seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. The BLS noted that most of the job losses were seen in the leisure and hospitality industry, as well as in education — both industries where women tend to compose a majority of employees

With COVID-19 continuing to stifle travel and a return to in-person schooling, these industries have suffered some of the more substantial economic losses over the past year.

Another component that restricts women from the workforce is childcare responsibilities. Positions held by Black and Latinx women tend to be ineligible for remote work, forcing women to choose between going to work and staying home to care for children who can’t attend school or daycare.

Experts have decried the worrying trend that more mothers, especially Black mothers, are considering leaving or have left the workforce during the pandemic, compared to fathers in the U.S. 

“Those sectors are less likely to have flexibility, so when employers are inflexible or women can’t come to work because of caregiving responsibilities — they have to exit the workforce,” C. Nicole Mason, the CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research told reporters.

This contributes to a total of 5.4 million jobs held by women that have been lost since February 2020, compared with 4.4 million jobs lost that were held by men.

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