How COVID is Affecting Unemployment for Women and People of Color
In February 2020, approximately 6.2 million Americans were unemployed. In May, the rising unemployment rates hit highs as the number of unemployed Americans reached 20.5 million.
The rising unemployment rates are more significant than they were during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009, and it seems to be hitting women, people of color and other minorities hard. That is surprising because women usually fare better than men during economic downturns.
More than 700,000 of the jobs that were eliminated in March had been filled by females. The unemployment rate for women in March was 0.9 percent, whereas it was 0.7 percent for men. The rising unemployment rates were even more significant in April. At that time, more than 15 percent of females lost their jobs, compared to only 13 percent of men. To compare, more than double the number of men than women lost work during the two years of the Great Recession.
Women are more susceptible to the rising unemployment rates right now because they tend to dominate the industries that are currently struggling due to social distancing, including hospitality, personal care services and education. Hispanic women are even more apt to be employed in these sectors. Employment rates for Hispanic females are up to 21 percent due to COVID-19.
While 33 percent of Americans report that they or an immediate family member has lost their job, 40 percent of Hispanics and people of color are in the same boat. This may be because companies look at position or tenure when they are deciding who to lay off. Rising unemployment rates tend to hit people harder who are in lower, more versatile positions.
Women and people of color do not typically rise to the same high positions as men do in the workplace. If people from these demographics are filling marginal positions within companies, they are likely to be the first to go.
Many companies claim that their layoffs are not based on race or sex. But they may not realize that their hiring policies may inadvertently lead white males into the higher-level titles, giving them more job security than women and people of color.
Rising unemployment rates can be difficult for anyone. But it can be harder for women and people of color to get back on their feet. These groups typically take longer than white men to get another job. When they are hired again, they often make less than they did in their previous position.
Therefore, laying off women and people of color will slow economic recovery. Businesses that retained a diverse workforce during the Great Recession fared better than other companies financially during and after the recession. Spreading reductions evenly, considering workers’ value to the company, cross-training employees and redistributing talent can help your company stay strong and diverse during and after this pandemic.
Retaining females and people of color can also help curb rising unemployment rates and help workers return to work faster when everything returns to normal.