Women’s Unemployment Rate Exceeds Men for All Major Racial/Ethnic Groups

In the four weeks since mid-March, 20.5 million jobs were lost, according to new payroll data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this Friday, May 8.[i] Women bore the majority of job losses, 11.3 million (55 percent of the total), compared with 9.2 million jobs lost by men. After women were more than half of all workers on payroll for the first three month of this year, their share has now fallen to 49.2 percent. The number of jobs lost by women in just one month was five times higher than the total decline in women’s employment during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Employment declined in all major sectors of the economy since February. Job losses have been particularly severe in sectors where women are the majority of the workforce, such as Leisure and Hospitality (women lost 4.4 million jobs compared with 3.7 million lost by men) and Educational and Health Services (women lost 2.2 million compared with 443 thousand lost by men; Figure 1). These two sectors alone account for the majority (56.5 percent) of total job losses for women since February. Job losses in Retail Trade (women lost 1.3 million compared with 836 thousand lost by men) are the third biggest area of job loss for women.

In Leisure and Hospitality, women’s job losses are broadly in line with their pre-COVID-19 share of employment: women lost 54.3 percent of jobs since, compared with a share of 53.3 percent of employment in February. In Educational and Health Services, women’s job losses were higher than one would expect from their share of employment: they lost 83.3 percent of jobs, compared with a share of 77.4 percent of employment in February. Women’s job losses were also disproportionate in Retail Trade where they bore 61.2 percent of job losses but were just 49.5 percent of workers in February.[ii]

Apart from Leisure and Hospitality, men’s job losses were highest in Construction where they lost 908,000 jobs in construction, compared to 100,000 jobs lost by women in the sector; women’s share of job losses, at 9.9 percent, is below their February share of total employment in the industry (at 13.2 percent; Figure 2 and IWPR analysis based on).

[i] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2020. “Employment Situation Summary.” Economic News Release, May 8 <> (accessed May 8, 2020).

[ii] IWPR calculation based on data provided in U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2020, as above.