New data finds that 309,000 women aged 20 and up voluntarily left the workforce in September alone
With so many American workers across multiple industries voluntarily leaving their jobs and/or coming together to demand better working conditions, including higher wages, better benefits, and overall fairer treatment, a long-overdue reckoning psychologist Anthony Klotz dubbed “the great resignation” has finally arrived.
While there are definitely certain demographics that appear to be leaving the workforce in larger numbers than others (with Harvard Business Review noting that the highest number of exits are in tech and health care and among mid-career employees), one group in particular seems to be fed the eff up with being mistreated and under-appreciated at work: women. According to newly released data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and analyzed by the National Women’s Law Center, in September alone, 309,000 women aged 20 and up left the labor force entirely, which means they are no longer working or actively looking for work. The organization notes that this marks the biggest drop in women’s labor force participation since September 2020, when 863,000 women left the workforce.
Heading into the third calendar year marked by the global pandemic has no doubt created devastating ripple effects for workers of all ages and across all industries, but the BLS data notes that 182,000 men found jobs last month. And the disparities are equal parts maddening and disheartening, with the NWLC reporting that more than 7.3 percent of Black women 20 years old and up were unemployed last month. While that’s a slight improvement from the 7.9 percent recorded the month prior, it still paints an absolutely bleak picture of what it means for the millions of Black women in the U.S. trying to secure safe and stable employment amid one of the worst economic crises in our country’s history.
The pandemic itself has further illuminated the many societal inequities faced by Black Americans, including access to healthcare and fair treatment when they do seek care, as well as support including child care, parental leave, and paid time off. These are basic necessities that so many in the U.S. simply don’t have, with women of color affected disproportionately across the board. The data showed that unemployment decreased among Latina women aged 20 and up from 6 percent to just 5.6 percent during the same period, and among Asian women 4.2 percent to 3.4 percent.
“Several factors are making this economic crisis particularly rough for women workers,” an NWLC spokesperson told The Hill. “Women are overrepresented in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, including retail, hospitality, health care, and the public sector. Women are also more likely to hold caregiving responsibilities, and the country continues to endure a shortage of child care workers and available child care slots worsened by the poverty-level wages child care workers are given for their vital service.”
But frankly, working conditions even before the pandemic simply “are not sustainable for millions of working women, particularly Black, brown, and immigrant women, single mothers, and women with disabilities,” the organization said, adding, “Far more important than any single number is the quality of life and work women are able to maintain, and focusing solely on the unemployment rate or labor force participation rate risks obscuring the stress and exploitation millions of women continue to endure, even while employed, as a consequence of our neglectful social safety net.”
In fact, for women to get the support they need to return to the workforce, the NWLC counts multiple, sweeping adjustments that need to be made, including “robust investments in child care and home-based services, universal kindergarten, universal paid leave, and extending the Child Tax Credit,” many of which measures are included as part of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan that Democrats are currently working to pass.
It’s abundantly clear that things need to change for the vast majority of Americans, and it’s long past time that elected officials on every level work towards supporting women workers in tangible ways that matter.