The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a new report on The COVID-19 Pandemic: Labor Market Implications that explores labor market outcomes in 2020, long-term effects on women in the labor force and possible continuing impacts. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused both a health and economic crisis, including devastating unemployment rates. It has become evident that women’s employment has seen greater declines than that of men’s. Women’s employment decreased by 17.8 percent (13.3 million people) between January 2020 and April 2020. Men’s employment decreased by 14.3 percent (12 million people) in that same period.
These findings are even more extreme for Black and Latinx women. Black women’s employment decreased by 17.1 percent between January and April, compared to a 16 percent decrease for white women. Employment for Latinx women decreased by 22.5 percent between January and April, compared to a 16.2 percent decrease for non-Latinx women.
CRS names two main factors in women’s declining employment:
- Women are more concentrated in the occupations that have been impacted by business restrictions and closures, and
- Women are more likely to reduce employment as a result of caregiving needs, which increased due to school closures, family members falling sick or family members needing assistance during the pandemic.
There is concern that there can be long-term impacts on women in the labor force, dependent on factors such as: length of time that the recession spans; “speed and robustness” of economic recovery; how current employment status will affect future employment; and changes (or not) in choices about caregiving. The disparities in employment may persist past the pandemic, and current unemployment for women can impact their earnings even when they return to the workforce in the future. Time out of the workforce can lead to a skill loss, and make it challenging for women to grow in their careers and access new job opportunities.
With millions of Americans unemployed, Black and Latinx workers, female workers and workers with a high school education or less have been disproportionately impacted. A significant number of adult learners need fast but quality upskilling and reskilling through avenues such as short-term programs that will result in living-wage, in-demand careers. While there is great uncertainty about the pandemic’s ongoing and long-term impact on employment in our country, there is certainty that CTE is a vital solution to decreasing unemployment and to economic recovery. Read Advance CTE’s transition priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration, including making CTE a central part of the Administration’s economic recovery strategy, here.
The full report by CRS can be viewed here.
Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy