The National Women’s Law Center analyzed the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data to find that despite an economy that is making gains, Black women are still being left behind. Despite a February Jobs Report that says the month was “strong,” women’s departures from the workforce continue to outpace those of men.  

The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows the economy added 678,000 jobs in February 2022, with women making up 51.2% of those gains.  However, the economy is still down a net 2.1 million jobs since February 2020, with women losing more than 1.4 million net jobs since February 2020. This means women now make up greater than two in three (68.5%) net job losers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unemployment rates dropped or remained the same for almost every group by race/ethnicity ages 20 and older with Black women serving as the lone exception. The unemployment rate for Black women aged 20 and over increased from 5.8% in January to 6.1% this February 

Meanwhile, while many other groups were joining the labor force last month, 31,000 Black women left, bringing their labor force participation rate down from 61.9% in January to 61.7% in February. Their pre pandemic labor force participation rate was 63.9% in February two years ago. Women gained 347,000 jobs last month but are still short over 1.4 million jobs since February 2020.

While unemployment rates went down for many demographic groups, the overall unemployment rate hides overall higher rates for Black women, Latinas, and other groups. 

The unemployment rate for women ages 20 and over stayed the same at 3.6% last month, but for men 20 and older, the unemployment rate decreased from 3.8% in January to 3.5% in February.

Nearly 1 in 16 Black women older than 20 (6.1%) were unemployed last month, up from 5.8% in January. Over 1 in 16 Black men ages 20 and over (6.4%) were unemployed during the same time. That is down from 7.1% in January. 

For women older than 20, nearly 1 in 20 Latinas (4.8%) were unemployed in February. That was a decrease from 4.9% in January.  For Asian women, around 1 in 35 (2.7%) were unemployed in February 2022, which declined from 3.2% in January. By comparison, the unemployment rate for white men ages 20 and over was 3.0% in February, down from 3.2% the prior month.

Nearly 1 in 10 women with disabilities (9.7%) were unemployed. That rate increased from 7.9% a month earlier in January. 1 in 14 young women ages 20-24 (7.2%) were unemployed in February, up from 5.9% in January. The unemployment rate for Black women ages 20-24 decreased from 14.2% in January to 13.8%13 in February.

Many unemployed women have been out of work for 6 months or longer. Nearly 3 in 10 unemployed women ages 20 and over (29.0%) had been out of work for six months or longer. 

Among unemployed women ages 16 and over, 27.1% had been out of work for six months or longer, including 27.8% of unemployed Asian women, 32.5% of unemployed Black women, and 22.9% of unemployed Latinas. Additionally, in February 2022, nearly 1 in 5 unemployed women ages 16 and over (19.3%) had been out of work for a year or longer.

Reported unemployment rates do not capture people who have left the labor force entirely and are no longer looking for work. If the more than 1.1 million women aged 20 and older who have left the labor force since February 2020 were counted as unemployed in February 2022, women’s unemployment rate would have been 5.1% in February 2022 instead of the reported 3.6%. Since February 2020, 199,000 Black women have left the labor force, along with 41,000 Latinas. If these women were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate for Black women in February 2022 would have been 7.8% instead of 6.1%, and Latinas’ unemployment rate would have been 5.2% instead of 4.8%.

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