Why unemployment fueled by pandemic is hitting women harder than men

Women hit hardest by unemployment
Women hit hardest by unemployment 03:38

The joblessness crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has dealt an unprecedented blow to women in the workforce, hitting women of color particularly hard. Just over 15% of women in the U.S. lost their jobs in April, compared to 13% of men — the first time an economic spiral has affected women, who were making big job gains until the crisis, worse than men. 

"I worked… my son went to school, and all that's changed since the virus," Missouri mom Meghan Hiles told CBS News' consumer investigative correspondent Anna Werner. 

Hiles worked as a massage therapist until she was furloughed on March 14. She said the spa she works for reopens June 1, but she worries for her and her 11-year-old son's health, because they both have asthma.

Hiles is also concerned for her stepmother, who has COPD and is her primary child care provider. 

"If something were to happen to my stepmom, as in, I go in and I work on somebody, come to pick him up, and come over there and give something to her — if she died, I would feel terrible," she said. 

More than 36 million Americans lost their jobs since the pandemic began. Experts say women have born the brunt of job losses because the industries that were hardest hit are "hugely dominated by women": leisure and hospitality, retail, education and health services. 

"Think about who teaches, you know, grade school kids? Who works at a daycare center? Health care, who typically works in a doctor's office?" economist Diane Lim, with the Penn Wharton Budget Model, said. 

National Women's Law Center President and CEO Fatima Goss Graves said the crisis "basically wiped out the job gains that women, and particularly black women, had since the last recession." 

The center ran an analysis that found roughly one in six black women and one in five Latino women are now unemployed. 

"We don't know what the other side of this is going to look like," Goss Graves said. 

New Jersey resident Simone Bailey found herself temporarily laid off from one of her hotel restaurant jobs. Her other new, full-time job was completely eliminated.

"We got called into the office and they let us know that we are laid off. Not even furloughed, just laid off," Bailey said.

The mother of two said the job losses left her feeling "very displaced," and she has spent her time sewing face masks instead. 

Bailey said her state unemployment check is just under $300 per week, and the extra federal money she was receiving only came for three weeks. 

"I still don't see how I'm supposed to live," she said. "And everybody else that I've worked with, all the other women that I was working with, it's the same thing."

Send tips to Anna Werner at wernera@cbsnews.com