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Women leaving the workforce due to COVID-19 causes a 'she-cession'

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Posted at 4:10 PM, Mar 08, 2021

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Studies are showing women have left the workforce at an alarming rate over the past year.

They're calling it the 'she-cession' with unemployment rates among women reaching levels not seen in nearly 50 years.

Women have lost 5.4 million jobs since the pandemic began, according to the National Women's Law Center. That same study shows that women participating in the labor force is at its lowest since the 1980's.

"‘She-cession’ comes from recession, and they put she in front of it as sort of a cute way to say this whole economic crisis is hitting women harder," said Dr. Jean Kimmel, a professor of economics at Western Michigan University.

Since the pandemic, studies show women have left the workforce at alarming rates.

Researchers said this 'she-cession' is affecting women harder than men for two reasons.

"Women are in those occupations that tend to be more face-to-face. Women are disproportionately represented in low wage work, and low wage work was really high hit by the recession as well. Then you add in concerns with the children being out of school," said Dr. Kimmel.

The increase in time where parents need to be home with their children during COVID is mainly being taken on by women.

"In January of 2021, there were about 10 million U.S. mothers of school-aged kids who were not working for pay. This is about 1.4 million more than it was a year ago. Now, it is 10 million not working for pay. Previously, it was 8.6 million," said Dr. Kimmel.

In April 2020 at the peak unemployment for the COVID crisis, Dr. Kimmel said the unemployment rate was 2.5% higher for women than men.

She said it's a big hit to gender equity.

"The trends before the COVID crisis numbers were saying that the percentage of the workforce was more than 50% female. I'm not saying that women were the CEO's, but women were a big presence in the labor force, and that that's been diminished again. So, it's not clear what the future will hold," said Dr. Kimmel.

Dr. Kimmel said the economic crisis shows to not have been born equally by gender, but it is also not born equally through race or ethnicity.

The overall unemployment rate shows even higher rates for black women, Latinas and other demographic groups