Women in the Workforce Have Rebounded, But They’re Still Facing Big Headwinds

The number of women in the workforce in February was higher than pre-pandemic levels for the first time. According to the latest jobs data, the number of women in the workforce rebounded. However, they still face big difficulties and headwinds. 

The strength of women’s return to work was faster than anyone could’ve imagined just a few years ago when dire predictions about a “she-cession” flooded the news.

The economic devastation of Covid hit women particularly hard. Women, especially black women, lost the majority of jobs in the Covid downturn. 

It was unprecedented. 

About 13.6 million women lost their jobs as travel halted, stores shuttered, and restaurants bottomed out. The demographics of the losses were investigated during and after the Covid pandemic, finding that women made up a clear majority of the workers who applied for unemployment insurance. 

The slowdown in 2008 was a “production recession,” experts have explained, saying that people stopped making and building things as loans got harder to obtain. 

But during Covid, the slowdown began in the service sector. With everyone stuck at home, Americans are not paying for other people to do things for them. Hairdressers, restaurant workers, hotel housekeepers, and retail clerks have all been thrown out of work. And women hold the majority of these jobs.

Now there is a rebound, especially in these sectors. 

Reports found that 105,000 of the 311,000 jobs added in February were in the leisure and hospitality sector, where they hold the majority of positions.

Women’s labor force participation is at 57.2 percent, almost back to the February 2020 number, 57.9 percent.

Men’s labor force participation rate is much higher than women’s, at 68 percent, but still down more than a point from pre-pandemic levels.

Women’s return to the workforce is helping to propel the economy in the face of high inflation and rising interest rates. 

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