Women lost 1.4M jobs in leisure & hospitality amid pandemic: Report

Julie Vogtman, National Women’s Law Center Director of Job Quality joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the data that shows that between February 2020 and May 2021, women lost a net total of nearly 1.4 million leisure and hospitality jobs, NWLC analysis shows.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, it is no secret that women have taken the brunt of the hits, at least with job losses, during the pandemic, with nearly 2 million fewer women in the labor force today compared to prepandemic levels. A new study points to significant losses in the leisure and hospitality sector, with job losses totaling nearly 1.4 million there.

Let’s bring in Julie Vogtman, director of job quality at National Women’s Law Center, the group behind that study. Julie, what did you find here? Why those losses were so significant in the sector, especially for women?

JULIE VOGTMAN: Thank you so much for having me. So I think what we found in these numbers that I really want to emphasize is that what we have seen consistently throughout the pandemic is that the leisure and hospitality sector was extremely hard-hit right away and that women were extremely hard-hit right away. And those are trends that are continuing today.

I think it’s important for us all to remember that we are not actually out of this crisis yet. The leisure and hospitality sector is one in which there are a lot of jobs that predominantly women hold, like restaurant servers and bartenders, that shuttered immediately with the onset of the pandemic. And as we saw some permanent closures, it’s going to be hard for all of those jobs to come back.

ZACK GUZMAN: And it takes a while for those jobs to come back too, which is why maybe it might be worrisome if you’re seeing some of these unemployment benefits go away quicker than some people had expected. I understand maybe the thinking in drawing people back to work. But if those jobs aren’t there, not much for people to go back to.

And similarly, your report kind of highlights a breakdown in terms of racial lines and what we’ve seen there, including the fact that Latina and Black women workers in the hospitality sector were already operating from a position of being behind their white counterparts. I mean, what do you see there in terms of the recovery when it comes to racial lines?

JULIE VOGTMAN: That’s exactly right. Again, in the leisure and hospitality sector, we’re looking at jobs where many people, especially women of color, were in crisis long before the pandemic hit. And then as the recovery is beginning, we are also seeing that Black women and Latinas are having a harder time gaining a foothold in the economy.

We still have a lot of women, for example, who are continuing to take on larger caregiving responsibilities in their families, many people who aren’t vaccinated yet and don’t feel safe to return to work. So what we’re focusing on at the National Women’s Law Center is how we can improve jobs and improve the labor supports that women, and particularly women of color, need to get back on their feet and not just to return to a status quo that wasn’t working for millions of people well before the pandemic.

Just to name one example, I mean, in most of the states that are cutting off unemployment insurance, for example, state and federal laws still allow employers to pay less than $5 an hour to people working for tips. And that’s why we saw that, before the pandemic, nearly one in five Black women working in this sector lived in poverty.

So we don’t want to just focus on whether or not jobs are coming back but also which jobs are coming back. What do those jobs look like? And how we can make them better, particularly for the Black women and Latinas who were concentrated in the jobs that had the lowest wages before the pandemic even started.

AKIKO FUJITA: Julie, if we’re talking about a cumulative loss of 1.4 million jobs for women, how many of those do you think are actually going to come back? And ultimately, what does this mean for the gender divide that exists in the labor market?

JULIE VOGTMAN: So I think we’re at a really critical turning point here. We know that there have been a number of restaurants that shuttered and a number of hotels and entertainment venues that are still operating at reduced capacity or may have shuttered as well. And as we are going forward and those restaurants and other leisure and hospitality employers that are reopening are talking, at times, about how they are actually struggling to find workers, we need to think about how they can attract and retain folks, by creating jobs that will actually support women, support their families, and support our economy, rather than keeping people hanging on by a thread.

AKIKO FUJITA: Julie Vogtman, it’s good to talk to you today, director of job equality, National Women’s Law Center.

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