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.
So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?
It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.
How are Americans spending their money these days?
Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”