A She-cession? Women Hit Hardest in COVID Downturn

Women are bearing the brunt of unemployment in the current downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women account for 55% of the 20.5 million who lost their jobs in April. The unemployment rate for adult women quintupled to 15.5% in April, an all-time high, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. This period could be known as a “she-cession” because of its effect on female employees, according to one workplace authority.

“The first wave of job losses has hit industries primarily employing women, including food service, childcare, retail, personal care, office assistance, and hospitality, where working from home is not an option. This differs from the Great Recession, during which the vast majority of job losses were among men,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior VP of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

During the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009), 74% of lost jobs were held by men. Men lost 6 million jobs and women lost 2.7 million jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The hardest-hit professions were in manufacturing and construction, traditionally male-dominated industries.

In the current downturn, women account for 49% of the overall U.S. workforce, but 55% of the job losses in April. In leisure and hospitality, women make up 52% of the workforce, but 54% of the April job losses; in education and health services, 77% of the workforce and 83% of the losses; and in retail, 48% of the workforce and 61% of the losses.

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