February Jobs Report Analysis

Women of Color Are Bearing the Brunt of Unemployment

Equity, Impact Lab, Private Sector, Public Policy

This month we’re looking back over a year of jobs day numbers to see how women have fared through the pandemic-induced jobs crisis. 

We have a long way to go — and this is no time to get complacent.

Women are still down over 5 million jobs compared to February 2020 and they currently make up 53.5% of overall remaining job losses. 

Women's employment rates have declined since 2020. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Employment gaps for women of color persist.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Black women and Latinas were hit the hardest and they continue to see higher unemployment rates than the general population. In fact, last month the unemployment rate actually increased for Black women to 8.9%, while it mostly stayed the same or decreased for other groups. Both Black women and Latinas have unemployment rates over 1.6 times that of white men. 

What’s more, sectors where women hold a disproportionate number of jobs are still struggling. For example, though retail made modest job gains in the last month, the sector is still down 326,600 jobs and women workers account for 98% of jobs lost.

Black and Latina women have experienced higher unemployment rates than white women. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Aiming for our pre-pandemic “normal” is nowhere near enough. Critical gaps in employment for women of color existed long before the pandemic and the labor market has historically never been set up to support women.  

But we are at a pivotal moment. We have an opportunity to meet this crisis with policy changes  that will build an inclusive economy that truly centers the needs of women of color. 

That means:

  • Addressing our caregiving crisis head on. Recent TIME’S UP research shows that investing in a robust care infrastructure would create millions of jobs, while building a healthier, more equitable economy. Investing in a care infrastructure would provide immediate relief for the paid and unpaid caregivers who have struggled over the last year and address a critical failure in our existing labor market. 
  • Providing immediate relief to women of color. We are far from a full recovery, and Black women and Latinas continue to be left behind. Policymakers can’t be complacent about a half-baked job. This month’s jobs report highlights the particular need to support state and local governments, which disproportionately employ women of color and which lost 68,600 jobs in the last month, the majority of them in education. 
  • Providing high-quality jobs. If we want to rebuild our economy on a strong foundation, we need to ensure that everyone can experience safe, fair, and dignified work — especially women and people of color, who are often the most vulnerable. We must offer living wages and eliminate the tipped-minimum wage that leads to the exploitation of women around the country. And we must ensure predictable schedules and fair pay.

Now is not the time to get complacent. A year into this crisis, the deeply-rooted cracks in our economy that harm women are clearer than ever. Now is our moment to address them. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.