After strong job growth in July, the economy slowed, adding just 235,000 jobs in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is well below the 720,000 newly hired economists, who are expected to disrupt the economic recovery as cases of Covid-19 increase.
Of the 235,000 jobs, only 11.9% went to women, reflecting a sharp decline in women’s employment growth since July, reports the National Center for Women’s Rights. The number of women working or actively seeking employment has also declined. The participation rate for women fell from 57.5% to 57.4% in July – before the pandemic, it had not declined much since 1988.
“It wasn’t a good month for jobs, especially right after July when we created over a million jobs,” Jasmine Tucker, director of research at NWLC, told CNBC Make It. “But the pandemic has made the market really volatile, so we should expect month-to-month changes in the economy.”
Given the pandemic’s economic toll on women, the NWLC estimates that it will take nine years of benefits in August for women to return to their pre-pandemic employment levels.
The highly contagious delta variant has made it even more difficult for working mothers to re-enter the workforce, says Tucker, as schools have closed and daycare centers continue to be lacking.
Another factor that could increase female unemployment is the end of federal unemployment benefits, which are due to expire on September 6 for around 7.5 million people, Tucker said. Once these benefits are exhausted, “we can expect a substantial drop in people’s spending,” Tucker says. “Less spending on local businesses means these businesses will have less money to hire more workers, including women… It’s an unpleasant cycle that could end unemployment in September.”
Women lost their jobs in August in several key sectors, including leisure and hospitality; retail; and the education and health sectors, according to an analysis by the NWLC. “These are some of the most important areas for women’s jobs,” Tucker says. “Unfortunately, the demand for these services may decrease as cases of COVID increase because people go out to eat and shop less, for example, if they are worried about getting sick.”
However, women made up 35.1% of jobs in the professional and professional services sector, which includes occupations such as accounting, human resources and data research.
In August, the overall unemployment rate for women aged 20 and over fell to 4.8% from 5% in July. By comparison, the overall unemployment rate for adult men aged 20 and over fell to 5.1% in August, from 5.4% in July. Black women faced an unemployment rate of 7.9% in August, up from 7.6% in July. Latinas fared slightly better, facing an unemployment rate of 6% in August, down from 6.7% in July.
But, as Tucker says, job losses for women can have far-reaching consequences. “Women are the breadwinners, a lot of families and businesses depend on these earnings,” she says. “When women lose their jobs, less money is spent in the economy and fewer jobs are created… it’s a vicious cycle we have to get out of. “
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