09.10.2020 5

Covid state lockdowns knocked millions of women out of the workforce—now they’re leading the rebound

By Megan Marzzacco

COVID-19’s drastic economic impact has stripped away decades of women’s advancement in the workplace. Although women make up a smaller portion of the workforce, more women lost their jobs at the height of the state-led coronavirus shutdowns than men, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

According to the Bureau, 13.4 million women and 11.9 million men lost their jobs at the peak of the lockdown in April. The female labor participation rate, those working or looking for work, dropped from 57.8 percent in February to just 54.7 percent in April, the lowest since 1986.

Put another way, despite only being 47.2 percent of the workforce pre-shutdown, women accounted for more than 52 percent of the job losses from the pandemic.

This is one reason the Trump administration has focused on reopening states and schools, linking April’s decline in jobs to the closures as labor participation for many females, especially mothers, collapsed due to the school and childcare shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of parents are still staying home.

In 2018, according to Brookings Institution, over 41 million U.S. workers ages 18-64 were caring for at least one child under the age of 18. Almost 83 percent of these have at least one child under age 14 and are more likely to rely on school and childcare.

Yet, according to Education Week 73 percent of the 100 largest school districts are utilizing remote learning this fall.

Robert Romano, Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government, said the longer states remain closed, the more it will impact women, eroding years of progress: “One of the strong points of the Trump economy was bringing unemployment to a fifty-year low of 3.5 percent, most of which was owed to 3.7 million women getting jobs starting in Jan. 2017, something the President’s advisor and daughter Ivanka Trump has emphasized.”

Romano added, “Now, thanks to the virus, those gains and more were lost. The state-led COVID-19 lockdowns cost 25 million Americans their jobs, when labor markets bottomed in April, disproportionately impacting women.”

As the country reopens and the economy begins to recover, employment numbers are increasing for both sexes, again led by females. Romano explained, “Now as states, including schools, have slowly begun reopening, almost 13.8 million Americans have returned to work, including 7.5 million women. To get everyone else back to work, states and the economy need to be safely reopened as soon as possible, including schools.”

In 1960, the female labor participation rate was just 37 percent, but as women entered the labor force, it peaked in 2000 at 60.3 percent before dipping during the Bush and Obama years, bottoming in Oct. 2015 at 56.6 percent. Then, it rebounded in the Trump years, reaching 57.9 percent in Jan. 2020 right before the pandemic hit.

Now, as the economy reopens and employment numbers are increasing for all Americans, women are again leading the way. That is why states should support President Trump’s emphasis on safely reopening states and schools — so everyone can get back to work.

Megan Marzzacco is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.

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