Her Recession: Economic downturn from COVID disproportionately hurting women

SPOKANE, Wash. — COVID-19 is a criminal.

It has taken the lives of our neighbors and loved ones. It has devastated many local businesses and it has stolen jobs from hard-working people.

The biggest victim in those job losses is women.

It is such a dramatic trend that some in the economy sector are calling it a “she-cession” or “her recession” – a recession disproportionately affecting women.

4 News Now is taking on the she-cession, focusing on what it means for all of us and looking for solutions.

Allison Larson is a wife, mother of four and was unemployed, thanks to the pandemic. In March, she lost her job of two years at Mirabeau Park Hotel in sales and as a catering coordinator.

“The governor shut us down the first time, that is when I had lost my job. In a matter of minutes, a half an hour, I had lost a million dollars in sales. I mean, instantly!” Larson said. “When that happened is when we got laid off.”

Weeks of unemployment turned into months and benefits were running out.

“I knew I needed to do something. I just can’t keep waiting for the hospitality industry to bounce back and it just happened that when I got hired by Twigs, it was my last week of unemployment,” Larson said.

Larson was one of the 12.1 million women who lost a job between February and April. As of today, about 6 million women are still unemployed.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic is disproportionately hurting women’s employment, with ramifications that could be long lasting.

It found nearly one in 15 women ages 20 and older were unemployed in October – that is 6.5 percent. Break that down even further and it shows that Black women and Latinas are affected at an even higher rate of about one in 11 or 9 percent.

“That sets us back huge amounts when we think about needing a more diverse and equitable workforce,” said Alisha Benson, Executive Director of Greater Spokane Incorporated.

Benson fears what these losses mean on a grand scale.

“When we look at the other data, that we are making such significant progress and women in the workplace and need for leadership… that sets us back huge amounts,” Benson said.

That impact is not just detrimental today, but in the long term, when economists predict many of those women will not come back to the workforce at all.

“I try to stay away from ‘mommy issues’ but it does tend to be a mommy issue sometimes,” said Amy Anderson.

Anderson is the Government Affairs Director for the Association of Washington Business for healthcare policy and federal policy.

She said the biggest reason women are leaving their jobs during the pandemic, or not returning, is lack of accessible, affordable childcare.

“We were in crisis before the pandemic, even more so now,” Anderson said.

The US Census report found that one in five working-age adults said the reason they are not working was because COVID-19 disrupted their childcare arrangements.

Women ages 25-44 are almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to childcare demands; 32 percent of these women are not working because of childcare compared to 12.1 percent of men in the same group.

What does this do to women, families and the economy in the short term? In the long term? What does it do to women’s mental health and where do we go from here?

4 News Now is focusing on this issue and all moving parts, and we are looking for solutions.

We would love to hear from you – the people impacted by “Her Recession.” What are you and your family dealing with? What kinds of decisions have you been forced to make? What are businesses doing to help?

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