Women of Color Hit Hardest by Loss of Hospitality Jobs

In December 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a net loss of 140,000 jobs in the U.S. The service and hospitality industry was hit particularly hard, as “employment in leisure and hospitality declined by 498,000, with three-quarters of the decrease in food services and drinking places,” due largely to COVID-19 restrictions on dining. 15.8 million people reported that they couldn’t work because their place of employment had closed, a common story for restaurants and bars around the country.

In another all too common instance, job loss has not been shared equally. According to The Lily, “Women lost 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000 jobs. That means the net number of jobs lost were held entirely by women. They were overwhelmingly women of color.”

The latest report puts the unemployment rate for white women over 20 years old at 5.7 percent, Black women at 8.4 percent, and Hispanic or Latino women at 9.1 percent. And since March, employment in leisure and hospitality has declined 23.2 percent, and by 3.9 million jobs. “More jobs have been lost in service industries and occupations where women are disproportionately represented,” says Reuters. For instance, over the summer, two-thirds of jobs added to the workforce were held by women, and “44.2% of those jobs were in leisure/hospitality and retail,” according to CBS News. However, as coronavirus continues to spread, in-person hospitality work has been extremely susceptible to job losses.

American women with children are also three times as likely to have lost work, according to the Pew Center, as mothers are often tasked with more child care, or supervised at-home schooling. When school started in September, 865,000 women left the workforce. But white women have been more likely to hold jobs that can be done from home, and while working while simultaneously supervising a child is certainly difficult, it also allows more flexibility than what’s allowed to women, primarily women of color, who must work outside the home. “The changes threaten to reverse decades of progress, not only in gender equality, but also in overall household income gains for the middle class,” says PEW.

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