The labor market is resurging — but millions of women are still recovering from the “she-cession”

Friday, March 4, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |

Let this sink in… After two years of a pandemic, women have still not fully recovered from the labor market pain of 2020. While the US added a record 6.4M jobs last year, and the overall unemployment rate is down to 4%, men have dominated new hirings. Of the jobs gained in January, women filled 40%. This morning’s jobs report will offer fresh insight into how women are rebounding from the she-cession.

  • In the US: 2.5M+ women dropped out of the labor force between February 2020 and January 2021, versus 1.8M men. That’s unusual, because men typically fare worse during recessions.
  • Globally: 64M+ women lost their jobs in 2020, which resulted in $800B in lost income.

Why women left… Women bore the brunt of childcare when schools closed, which hurt their careers, relationships, and well-being. Women are also overrepresented in jobs with some of the highest burnout rates, including high-contact industries like healthcare, education, and retail. Ultimately, many mothers were forced to decide between being primary caregivers or full-time employees. And while schools have reopened, there’s still a childcare crisis keeping women out of the resurgent labor market:

  • 16K licensed childcare facilities permanently closed between December 2019 and March 2021, while childcare costs have increased by 41% since the pandemic began.
  • American childcare workers — 95% of whom are women — earn just $12/hr on average, which makes recruitment and retention challenging.

The labor market is still healing… especially for women. Biden’s $1.2T infrastructure bill aims to pump money into industries like construction and transportation, but those sectors have traditionally employed few women. Some say minimizing bias against workers who take career breaks for childcare could help women return to the labor pool.