Nearly 650,000 more women than men dropped out of the job market in September

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The coronavirus pandemic has been especially difficult for working women, and the latest employment figures from the Bureau of Labour Statistics show that it has not gotten easier in September.

The US added 661,000 jobs in September, but a large number of women left the workforce, meaning they are neither working nor actively looking for work. Michael Madowitz, an economist at The Centre for American Progress, tweeted a chart that highlights the drastic number of people dropping out, especially women.

The following chart shows the monthly change in labour force participation by sex. Labour force participation includes both people who are working and those looking for work.

Labour force participation dropped for both sexes, suggesting an increasing number of people giving up on looking for work, retiring, or caring for family full-time. But the monthly change for women was much larger than for men. Labour force participation declined by 865,000 women from August to September, while about 216,000 men left the labour force.

The unemployment rate dropped by 0.6 percentage points for both men and women, although the rate is still higher for women. The September unemployment rate was 8.0% for women and 7.7% for men.

A survey conducted by McKinsey and Company and Lean In of around 40,000 workers found 1 in 4 women have considered dropping out of the workforce or cutting hours amid the pandemic.

Working mothers are having to balance their own work with their children’s schooling. Per reporting from the New York Times, the problem is especially hard for mothers in retail where schedules are not as structured. The New York Times also cites results from Census Bureau polling in mid-July where 32.1% of women aged 25-44 are not working because of childcare, compared to only 12.1% of men.

The Washington Post also found low-income and single mothers have to decide between paying for expensive childcare or dropping out of the workforce, which could have long-term effects on labour force participation for women.

Additionally, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, person of colour) women have reportedly been one of the demographics most negatively impacted by the pandemic. One reason for this is because they work in a lot of the jobs hardest hit by the pandemic and on the frontlines of the pandemic, such as health care workers. The unemployment rate for white women in September was 6.9%, while the rate for Black and African American women was 11.1%.