According to the analysis, 309,000 women ages 20 and above exited the workforce entirely last month. The group called the figure the biggest dive in women’s labor force participation since September 2020, when more than 800,000 women left the workforce.
At the same time, the unemployment rate for women dipped in September. A NWLC spokesperson said on Monday that the drop was likely driven by the significant number of women that exited the labor force last month, meaning “they are no longer employed nor looking for employment.”
A closer look at the racial breakdown of women’s unemployment numbers last month showed glaring disparities.
Over 7.3 percent of Black women at least 20 and older were unemployed last month, a slight dip from the 7.9 percent recorded the month prior.
The unemployment rate among white women during the same time frame went from 4.2 percent to 3.7 percent, underscoring the disproportionate burden Black women are facing in the pandemic labor market.
Similarly, unemployment decreased among Latinas in the same age group from 6 percent to 5.6 percent during the same period, data showed.
The unemployment rate among Asian women lowered from August to September from 4.2 percent to 3.4 percent.
Overall, the NWLC said the unemployment rate for women 20 and over was 4.2 percent last month, down from 4.8 percent month before. The unemployment rate for men was 5 percent in September, 0.4 percentage points lower than in August.
“Several factors are making this economic crisis particularly rough for women workers. Women are overrepresented in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, including retail, hospitality, health care, and the public sector,” the NWLC told The Hill.
“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,” the group added.
The group said women lost a net 26,000 jobs in September, despite 194,000 jobs being added to the economy last month.
The figure comes more than a year after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that showed women’s employment rate had surpassed their male counterparts in December 2019, just months before the pandemic hit the U.S.
However, the NWLC told The Hill on Monday that the “normal” that existed prior to the pandemic was “not sustainable for millions of working women, particularly Black, brown, and immigrant women, single mothers, and women with disabilities.”
“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,” the group said.
The group said the “best path” to improving those measures would include “robust investments in child care and home-based services, universal kindergarten, universal paid leave, extending the Child Tax Credit.”
Much of those measures are included in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda that Democrats are currently working to craft in Congress as part of a sweeping social benefits and climate package.
However, as Democrats continue to disagree on the size and scope of the legislation, the party has its hands full with trying to choose which proposals to prioritize or abandon as they seek to reduce costs of the overall bill amid spending negotiations.