When it comes to coronavirus job losses, significantly more women are finding themselves recently unemployed than men. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 701,000 jobs were lost last month, and almost 60% of them belonged to women. The bulk of these — 459,000 job losses, to be exact — came from the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, bars, and hotels.
That women have lost jobs at higher rates than men so far aligns with the gender makeup of the sectors impacted first by coronavirus. Many occupations remain largely segregated by gender — for example, 70% of restaurant waitstaff are women, and we make up the majority of service industry workers overall.
The second hardest-hit sector, according to the BLS data, is education and health services, which has experienced a loss of 76,000 jobs so far. We know that educational occupations are dominated by women (in fact, increasingly so), and the vast majority of those working in health care are women, too. Additionally, secretaries and administrative assistants (93.4% women), office clerks (81.1% women), and receptionists and information clerks (89%) are among the top 20 most common occupations for women and are also being hit hard by business closures and drastic social distancing measures.
The Institute of Women’s Policy Research has also shown that young women aged 16 to 19 are facing an unemployment rate of 14.3%, compared to an unemployment rate of 4% for women aged 20 and older, indicating that this age group was among the first to experience coronavirus-related job loss. In February, women aged 16 to 19 had an unemployment rate of 10.8%. The IWPR believes the stark difference is largely due to younger women being more likely to take part-time jobs. For part-time workers overall, unemployment rose from 3.7% in February to 6.1% in March.
How the picture of coronavirus job loss looks when the data is further broken down by race is unclear right now, but we know that unemployment is higher for Black and Latinx women than for white women.
In terms of overall unemployment, just today, the U.S. Department of Labor reported another 6.6 million new insurance claims — which means that over 16 million people have filed for unemployment in the past three weeks, or over 10% of the entire U.S. workforce. (These new claims are not yet reflected in the BLS report, which was released on April 3rd.) It’s unclear whether a gender imbalance in job loss will persist in the coming months, but given that the industries that continue to be hit hardest by the pandemic are dominated by women, there’s reason to believe the pattern could continue.
Outside of the gender imbalance in unemployment, there are also emerging questions of what role sex and gender play in coronavirus infections. Data from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, and other countries, as well as data from NYC, has shown that men have a higher fatality rate.