After months of slow job growth, the economy came back to life in October, adding 531,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. October was a promising month for women to return to the job market, too, with nearly 57% of new positions created going to women, according to a National Women’s Legal Center report.
It’s a huge improvement over September, when men took all new jobs in the month and more than 300,000 women left the workforce, the biggest drop for women from the workforce since September 2020, according to an NWLC analysis. But in October, women held the most jobs in the retail, entertainment, hospitality and education sectors.
“Overall, this report is good news for women,” Jasmine Tucker, director of research at NWLC, told CNBC Make It. “We are definitely turning things around here.” The BLS’ latest report arrived two months after many children returned to in-person classrooms at the start of the school year and in the same week, the CDC removed the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, two events that Tucker believes could They encourage more mothers to re-enter the workforce.
However, she adds, October was not an ideal month for a working woman. “It’s important to pay attention to where jobs are being added for women,” she explains. “Many jobs in retail and hospitality, for example, do not offer benefits or high wages, and long and demanding schedules make it difficult to arrange childcare.”
However, major resignations and ongoing labor shortages have prompted many companies to improve working conditions for employees. For example, the median hourly wage for leisure and hospitality workers increased from $17.12 an hour in October 2020 to $19.04 an hour just one year later.
On an October average, the NWLC estimates that it will take about eight months for the economy to regain the nearly 5 million jobs it lost during the coronavirus pandemic. Several groups saw a spike in unemployment between September and October, including white women (3.7% to 3.9%), Asian women (3.4% to 4.4%) and Hispanics (5.6% to 5.7%). Nearly 1 in 3 women (32.6%) who were unemployed in October had been unemployed for six months or more.
Tucker notes that this rise in the unemployment rate has been driven by women returning to the labor market in droves, but not yet having a job. Women’s labor force participation rate is up 57.3% from 57.1% — but while 292,000 white women and 114,000 Latinas joined the workforce last month, 52,000 black women left.
There is no clear answer to explain why this disparity exists. This pandemic has made the labor market extremely volatile, which in turn has made the economic recovery inconsistent and unpredictable. “It’s hard to discern exactly what will happen from month to month,” Tucker says. “But I’m concerned about these women finding new opportunities, because black women still face employment discrimination, and if they’ve been out of work for long periods, they may feel more frustrated about applying for jobs.”
Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at NWLC, suggested employers could help retain and hire more women in their companies by giving employees more flexible work schedules, being transparent about work responsibilities and reviewing paid time off policies. “All of these things are really important to make sure that people who have caregiving responsibilities don’t lose their jobs when their child suddenly has to self-quarantine after being exposed to school or a relative becomes ill,” Martin told CNBC Make It last month.
Continued job growth will pioneer how women perform in the wake of the pandemic — but “we also want to make sure the jobs that are being added are good, quality jobs,” Tucker notes. “If the ‘Great Resignation’ shows us anything, it’s that people are tired of the status quo and want something better… It’s up to the employers, and we are all, really, to satisfy that need.”
She continues: “We need to get women back into the workforce – they make up half our economy! – We can’t afford to neglect them any longer.”
She launched her first startup at the age of 26. Now she’s running Khloe Kardashian’s denim brand—here’s how she got there
Nearly 2 out of 3 women left the workforce during Covid’s return plan – and most of them want to enter the field
More than 300,000 women left the workforce in September
Open an account now: Get smarter about your finances and career with our weekly newsletter