According to a recently released report by the U.S. Department of Labor, employers let go of 140,000 jobs in the month of December. When breaking down the net numbers, CNN reported that 156,000 women lost their jobs in the last month of 2020, while men actually gained 16,000 jobs. This means that women accounted for 100 percent of the 140,000 overall jobs lost in America’s economy that month. Even more worrisome, when the numbers were broken down by race, Black women were one of the most impacted groups by job loss and unemployment.
Helping to add more context to the conversation, Forbes shared that “The unemployment rate for women overall is 6.3% according to the December jobs report.” With that figure in mind, factor in that 8.4% of Black women are currently unemployed. As the business-based outlet explained, Black, Latina, and Indigenous women have been disproportionally affected when it comes to job loss because of their major role in service-based industries like restaurants, in retail, and in hospitality, all of which have been hit hard by the pandemic.
In essence, job insecurity has been one of the worst issues women have faced during the pandemic. Despite women holding slightly more jobs than men in the workforce for the first time in nearly a decade just before coronavirus became a widespread problem, in May, when coronavirus hit its first peak, 20.5 million jobs were lost and unemployment was heightened to 14.7 percent. Confirming how drastic the pandemic was, especially when it came to gendered job loss, in July 2020, McKinsey Global Institue reported that women’s jobs were almost twice as vulnerable to the crisis than men’s. That meant that the “pandemic and its economic fallout were having a regressive effect on gender equality.”
Simultaneously, Black women have also been disproportionally dealing with the coronavirus itself. In April, Dr. Ashley Denmark told MadameNoire that higher numbers of pre-existing health conditions within the Black community, a higher likelihood of living with multiple people, and a greater chance of being employed in service-based industries, as Forbes mentioned, contributed to the Black community becoming an at high-risk population for the virus.
“The result of these social determinants has led Black America to make up the majority of the essential workforce, which does not have the benefit to work from home during this pandemic,” she said at the time. “As a result, Black Americans are more vulnerable to contracting the virus and, in turn, bring it back to their community to spread, which is an at-risk population.”
By August, COVID-19 was the third cause of death amongst Black Americans, and Black women and their families continued to be left extremely vulnerable both in the job market and in the medical field. The vicious cycle of Black women who are lucky enough to keep their jobs by putting their health on the line to provide for their families through service-based, front-facing jobs, is one that continues to rear its ugly head.
Will all the issues concerning the job insecurity this group faces, the job loss and unemployment statistics not being in their favor, and coronavirus infection rates continuously on the rise within the community, it’s clear that the ways in which Black women have been disproportionally and negatively affected throughout the past year made for really bleak times. Perhaps 2021, with a vaccine finally available and with the hope that comes with a new year, will bring about better outcomes for all — especially Black women.