A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzed by the National Women's Law Center shows that 156,000 women lost jobs in December 2020, while men gained 16,000 jobs.

By Libby Ryan
October 07, 2020
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Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic, it's clear that parents are paying a heavy price for keeping their families and the general population safe from the deadly virus. And December, once again, showed those effects in full force. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, more than 150,000 women lost jobs—in just one month.

The numbers tell a clearly gendered story. While men gained 16,000 new jobs, women lost 156,000, according to an analysis by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). The fallout from the pandemic is primarily affecting women—moms aren't getting the support they need.

Last month, 27,000 women entered the labor force but it's a small amount compared to the thousands who have left since the beginning of the pandemic. In the past year, nearly 2.1 million women left the labor force—including 564,000 Black women and 317,000 Latina women, who have been disproportionately affected by job losses caused by the pandemic. In December alone, 154,000 Black women left the workforce, or more likely, were forced out to care for family.

The NWLC also pointed out that compared to white women, unemployment rates for Latina and Black women have drastically increased (and rates were already significantly higher for those groups). White women began 2020 with an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent and ended with 5.7 percent. Black and Latina women both began 2020 with unemployment rates of 4.9 percent and ended the years with 8.4 percent for Black women and 9.1 percent for Latina women.

It's not the first time a report has revealed the vast fallout for women. In September 2020, more than 800,000 women left the workforce, many to care for children or other loved ones at home. Michael Madowitz, an economist at the Center for American Progress and a dad himself, tweeted about the results of the report. "We totally knew this was coming," he wrote on Twitter. "But this month is a disaster for working women. 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force. 216,000 men did."

An autumn report from McKinsey Company and Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In showed that 1 in 4 women say they are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely. The report cited several reasons why women are in this position, including feeling like they need to be available at all hours, difficulties balancing caregiving responsibilities and work, the worry they might be judged or treated differently for needing a flexible schedule, and being burned out.

“Some companies may think that worrying about employee burnout is a luxury they can’t afford right now. In fact, it’s mission-critical. If companies rise to the moment, they can head off the disaster of losing millions of women and setting gender diversity back years,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas in the report.

Other surveys throughout the pandemic show that even in heterosexual couples where both parents are working from home, mothers end up doing more housework and child care. Since many child care facilities outside the home are still closed, unaffordable, or unsafe for those with high-risk members in their family, moms end up picking up the slack. And without government assistance, child care will remain inaccessible to many families in the next stages of the pandemic.

Credit: Getty Images

Of course, the child care crisis didn't start with coronavirus, but the pandemic revealed many problems with the U.S. child care system not often discussed before schools shut down and public safety measures began. In March, the CARES Act provided $3.5 billion for child care but more than six months later, experts suggest there's still huge financial need for both child care providers to keep operating and for parents to be able to afford child care programs.

For parents, especially moms left behind during the crisis, child care will be a crucial issue to watch going into the next presidential term. During his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden said he plans to allocate $775 billion to the child care crisis, including universal preschool and tax credits to reimburse families for some of their child care costs.

And with newly-elected representatives joining congress for their upcoming terms as well, you can always contact them to have your voice heard about prioritizing child care on the congressional agenda.

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