The economy added 4.8 million to non-farm payroll employment, according to the latest U.S. Bureau Employment Situation Release. Yet, while women gained the majority of new job, they continue to lag further behind men in terms of getting back to pre-COVID 19 employment levels. The rate of unemployment for all women ages 20 and older remains higher than that for all men, and is still in double digits for women and men of all major racial and ethnic groups with the exception of White men.

 Women held six in ten (59.9 percent) jobs added to non-farm payrolls between mid-May and mid-June 2020, yet they continue to lag further behind men in getting back to pre-COVID 19 employment levels. Women’s non-farm payroll employment is still 8 million below its February 2020 levels, while men’s is still 6.6 million lower (Table 1). Women’s payroll employment is still 10.5 percent below February levels, and men’s 8.7 percent.[i]

Women’s payroll employment grew in all major sectors of the economy, particularly in Leisure and Hospitality (Figure 1), but continues to be substantially below pre-COVID 19 levels in February (Figure 2). Women’s employment in Leisure and Hospitality is still only at 71 percent of what it was pre-COVID; Education and Health Services, the sector that employs the largest number of women, has seen much less of a collapse of employment and has recovered 92 percent of February job levels.[ii] Yet, notably, employment levels in Child Care Services are still a quarter below their pre COVID levels, highlighting the patchy recovery and the difficulties for many parents, and particularly mothers, in returning to employment as the economy reopens. [iii]

For men, employment also grew in the larger sectors, but declined in four sectors: Government, Information, Utilities, and Mining (Figure 1). Sector segregation—the fact that women and men are concentrated in different parts of the economy—accounts for much of the job changes.

With the exception of Retail, Wholesale, and Other Services, women’s job losses in each major sector have been broadly proportional to the share of jobs they held before the lockdown (see Table 1). The exception are Retail (where women’s share of job losses, at 65.2 percent, is substantially higher than their pre-Covid share of Retail employment, at 49.8%), and women also bore disproportional job losses in Wholesale and Other Services. Women’s employment fell less than would be expected from pre-Covid employment levels in Mining, Construction, and Utilities (Table 1); these sectors overall employ only a small proportion of women who tend to be more concentrated in back office jobs less likely to be immediately impacted by operational cut-backs.

[i] IWPR analysis based on BLS Current Employment Statistics, not shown elsewhere Series

[ii] IWPR analysis based on BLS Current Employment Statistics,. not shown elsewhere.

[iii] IWPR analysis based on BLS Current Employment Statistics,. not shown elsewhere.