Closing The Gap

Women need nearly 5 straight months of July job gains to return to pre-pandemic employment levels

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Last month, the economy showed signs of solid job growth, adding 943,000 jobs to the labor force in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This brings the overall unemployment rate down to 5.4%, lower than the 5.7% rate economists had predicted.

Of the 943,000 jobs added, 68.8% went to women, marking the largest one-month increase in women's job growth since August 2020, reports the National Women's Law Center. With women disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the NWLC estimates that women need nearly five straight months of July's job gains to return to where they were before the pandemic.

"I think this was a blockbuster month, having nearly one million jobs added," Jasmine Tucker, NWLC's director of research, tells CNBC Make It. While it's good to "celebrate all those gains," Tucker says she's unsure about whether we will see similar growth in the coming months due to mask mandates and other restrictions being reinstated because of the delta variant.

"I think next month we could see something completely different based on what's happening right now," she says, while emphasizing that "it will be interesting to see what happens with parents" as the school year starts back up.

Twenty/20

When looking at the overall jobs report for July, women accounted for 53.9% of the job gains in the leisure and hospitality industry, 91.3% of the job gains in government and all of the job gains in the education and health services sector, according to NWLC's analysis.

"So, there's sort of a mixed bag there," says Tucker. "We tend to think of government jobs as more well-paid jobs with benefits. But, when you think about leisure and hospitality, I think a lot of those are low-quality jobs where people don't have access to great scheduling, the wages are lower and they don't always have access to benefits."

While leisure and hospitality jobs — including those in restaurants, hotels and other service sectors — tend to help drive the economy, data indicates that workers in these roles could also be impacted the most if restrictions are reinstated that limit dining out, traveling and leisure activities.

When peeling back the layers of the jobs report, Tucker says you will also see that not all workers are having an equal recovery. While a total of 140,000 men and women rejoined the labor force last month, NWLC reports that 65,000 Black women and 51,000 Latinas left in July.

"We saw a lot of the unemployment numbers come down, which I think signals some good signs as people have come back to the labor force," explains Tucker. "But for Black women and Latinas, whose unemployment rates also went down, they had large numbers of people leaving the labor force and that's probably what drove their [unemployment] drop because those people are no longer counted among the unemployed since they aren't looking for work."

In July, the overall unemployment rate for women ages 20 and over decreased to 5% from 5.5% in June. The overall unemployment rate for adult men ages 20 and over dipped to 5.4% in July from 5.9% in June.

By comparison, Black women faced an unemployment rate of 7.6% in July, down from 8.5% in June. And Latinas faced an unemployment rate of 6.7% in July, down from 7.9% in June. Black men, who faced the highest unemployment rate of 8.4% in July, likely contributed to men's overall unemployment numbers being slightly higher than women's.

"All around, I think there is more to [July's report] than, 'Oh, this was a great month for women,'" Tucker says, "because it doesn't seem like it was that great for everyone." In fact, she says if we "we count the people who've left the labor force among the unemployed, unemployment rates for Black women and Latinas would be much higher than 7.6% and 6.7%, [respectively]."

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