More than twice as many women than men dropped out of the labor force in Colorado while the COVID-19 pandemic forced business closures and layoffs earlier this year, according to a new analysis.
The state’s unemployment rate peaked at around 12% in April, although it has since receded to 10%. Before the pandemic, the gap between male and female workforce participants was less than four percentage points. But now, the difference is greater than seven percentage points.
“One of the largest drops in the labor force was seen in women over the age of 35, with this group experiencing a decline of nearly 8% participation dropping from 63% to 55.3%,” the analysis from the Greenwood Village-based Common Sense Institute found. The group is a nonpartisan, but free-market oriented, research organization.
The report noted that between February and May, 88,000 men and 179,000 women left the labor market. As such, the unemployment rate for men is below the statewide average, while for women it exceeds the average.
In late May, senior economist Ryan Gedney with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said that initially, women comprised the majority of unemployment benefits claims. In 2019, by contrast, men filed 60% of all claims. That difference reflects the gender concentration in specific industries hard-hit in the pandemic, Gedney said.
“In leisure, hospitality, education, health care and retail — the sectors that are getting hit the hardest — women are the ones who are falling victim to the first massive waves of this economic crisis," Emily Martin, a vice president for the National Women's Law Center, told CNBC. She added that due to COVID-19, schools and other types of child care were suspended, which could affect women's ability to return to work.