COVID & Unemployment

Full retail recovery hinges on women getting back to work

Marielle Segarra Mar 5, 2021
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
More than half of the jobs lost during the pandemic have been lost by women. Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Full retail recovery hinges on women getting back to work

Marielle Segarra Mar 5, 2021
Heard on:
More than half of the jobs lost during the pandemic have been lost by women. Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report shows some employment gains for women in February, but there’s a long way to go. Which brings us to this: In a financial filing this week, ThredUp, the secondhand clothing site, said the pandemic and the lockdowns have “disproportionately affected women, our predominant buyer demographic.”

More than half of the jobs lost during this pandemic were lost by women. Dana Peterson, chief economist at the Conference Board, said that’s in part because they’re more likely to work in certain fields.

“Hotels and restaurants, travel, certain types of brick-and-mortar retail. And many of these businesses either closed or were shedding workers throughout the pandemic,” she said.

Also, more than 2.3 million women have dropped out of the workforce entirely, compared to 1.8 million men. In many cases, it’s been to take care of their kids and help them with remote school.

“Women’s labor force participation is lower than it’s been since 1988. We’ve lost a generation’s worth of progress,” said Emily Martin at the National Women’s Law Center.

Relief checks and unemployment benefits are helping for now, but Martin says this crisis could have long-term effects on women’s economic prospects.

“We know that about 40% of women who are currently unemployed have been unemployed for six months or more. When those women go back to work, get a new job, those long spells out of the workforce tend to show up in lower wages,” Martin said.

Lower wages means less money to spend, which is a problem for retailers, especially ones that sell, say, women’s clothing. But the ripple effects could go even further.

Women tend to make most of the shopping decisions for their families, said Tiffany Hogan, an analyst at Kantar.

Kantar has done research on this; 63% of people who said they do all or most of the apparel shopping for their households are women, compared to 37% for men. The numbers are similar for household items and groceries.

And Hogan said when you lose a job, “it makes you make decisions a little bit differently. You might be a little bit more conservative with what you’re buying, because you’re even more acutely aware of what’s been lost because you’re the one to lose it.”

So whether or not women recover economically from this pandemic is everybody’s problem.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.