If you’ve been following labor market trends, you’ve likely heard the term “she-cession”, referring to the large volume of women who have left the workforce during the pandemic. Just how many have left, what is the cause, and how can we fix it? Check out this snippet of our conversation with gender economist Katica Roy on the DE Talk podcast as she shares the answers to these questions, surprising statistics and other interesting tidbits related to the gender gap.

Candee Chambers:
Well, I’ll tell you what, the pandemic I think has brought out a lot of interesting issues, not necessarily good issues. I think we’ve seen so many women be affected because they tend to be the one that takes care of the kids most often, if it’s going to be the man or the woman, and to your point on the gender equity, a lot of times they are paid less. And so if one person is going to leave the workforce, it will most likely be the woman in those familial situations. So, and I’m sure you’ve done lots of studies as a result of the pandemic – have you figured out, or have you heard, or do you know how many, approximately how many women have actually left the workforce since the pandemic hit?

Katica Roy:
I do, yeah. And we can talk about some of the reasons why – childcare and caregiving is one – but it’s not the only. And we can also talk about women that don’t have the option to leave.

2.67 million women have left the labor force since February 2020. And 309,000 were in September alone. What’s interesting about that – there’s two things that are interesting – just to kind of put that in perspective for people. There’s a lot of talk about lack of labor supply or the mismatch between folks that are looking for work and the skills needed to fill the jobs that are open. We currently have 10.4 million jobs open in the United States, and we have 7.67 million people looking for jobs. So, we have a 2.73 million-person-gap, basically between jobs that are open and people looking for jobs. That is almost the same.

Candee Chambers:
That’s a lot of the business that we actually are in, and we’re just kind of dumbfounded because there are so many jobs available, but what we’re seeing is, what are they calling it? The Great Resignation, that people are just leaving in droves?

Katica Roy:
And some of the Great Resignation is people leaving their existing work, but not dropping out of the labor force. That’s actually, that is like moving from-

Candee Chambers:
Point A to point B.

Katica Roy:
Exactly. And that’s the biggest that it has ever been. That number is the biggest it’s ever been. But what’s interesting. If you look at that gap, that 10.4 million jobs open, 7.67 million people looking for jobs, and that’s essentially a 2.73 million-person-gap, if you will, that’s almost the same as the number of women that have left the labor force since the beginning of the pandemic, which is 2.67 million, about a 600,000 difference.

Candee Chambers:
Interesting.

Katica Roy:
So that’s one. The second is that in the labor force participation rate, what we found, what happened during the pandemic is that we actually fell back 33 years to 1988 in terms of women’s labor force participation. And that’s not only an issue of fairness or a concern, it’s actually an economic issue. Because since 1970, from 1970 to 2016 women actually added $2 trillion to the U.S. economy through their increased labor force participation, we have lost almost all that progress. It’s about $1.4 trillion in progress, just in labor force participation of women. That should concern us because our economy cannot grow if we don’t have people to work.

The conversation continues! Listen to the entire episode to uncover the impact the she-cession will have on our economy long-term, how the statistics differ for women of color, and why some countries are seeing the opposite effect and are now closer to closing the gender gap. We’ll be back next month with another great episode ­– stay tuned!

Kacie Clark
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