Why unemployment is disproportionately affecting women

Published: May. 15, 2020 at 4:55 PM EDT
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Mom Meghan Hiles led a life in Missouri filled with family, pets and her work as a massage therapist until she was furloughed March 14.

"I worked... my son went to school, and all of it's changed since the virus," she said.

Hiles says the spa she works for reopens June 1, but she and her 11-year-old son both have asthma, plus her child care provider-- her stepmom-- has COPD.

"If something were to happen to my stepmom, as in I go and I work on somebody, come to pick him up and come over there and give something to her. If she died, I would feel terrible," Hiles said.

The pandemic cost 15.5% of women their jobs in April, compared with 13% of men. Experts say the reason is many women work in areas hit hard by the crisis, like leisure and hospitality, education, health services and retail.

"These are the industries, the types of jobs that are hugely dominated by women," economist Diane Lim said.

The impact is greatest for women of color. A National Women's Law Center analysis finds roughly one in six black women and one in five Latino women are now unemployed.

In New Jersey, Simone Bailey now spends her time making face masks. The mother of two boys lost both her hotel restaurant jobs.

Bailey says her state unemployment check is just under $300 a week and the federal money only came for three weeks.

"I still don't see how I'm supposed to live," Bailey said. "Everybody else that I've worked with, all the other women that I was working with, it's the same thing."

One rather stunning statistic from the law center's report: Between the end of the Great Recession in July 2010 and the start of the COVID-19 crisis in February 2020, women gained 11.1 million jobs. In April 2020, the entirety of those gains was wiped out.

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