The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but when it comes to job loss, women are bearing the brunt.
And this is a trend across the country and in Arkansas.
In December, the U.S. economy cut 140,000 jobs, and all of them were held by women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, men gained 16,000 jobs that month.
A long line of people extended outside the Arkansas Workforce Center in Little Rock. They stood in the cold waiting to apply and receive unemployment benefits.
Kashaun Morris had been waiting so long, she befriended the person in front of her.
“I’ve been here a few hours now,” she said, huddling with the woman next in line for warmth.
Morris–like many others in line–lost her job. She’s a hairstylist whose shop went under last year.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “When I say hard–it’s very hard. You just have to stay humble as much as you can and take it a day at a time.”
But Morris has a daughter to support and a sick father to take care of.
“It’s a hassle especially being a single mother,” she said. “Because I have to be there with my father who is sick. So it’s a hassle to be a mother, to try to be a teacher, to try to come out here. I had to leave her with my father to come here to do this.”
A few feet ahead in line stood Kathryn Holmes–licensed beautician and designer.
“It just shut my whole business down,” Holmes said.
Holmes is self-employed, so she’s gone months waiting for assistance. She said she’s had to rely on friends and family for financial support.
And Morris and Holmes aren’t alone. In Arkansas, the unemployment rate for women is higher than men. And it’s even higher for black women.
“There’s a lot of things we have to get by and get through,” Morris said. “This is just another one of them.”
This inequality is catching the attention of economists.
“The hardest hit during this recession are single mothers who are working and have kids to take care of,” said Dr. Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute.
Pakko said in typical recessions, male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction are hardest hit.
“The current situation is exactly the reverse,” he said.
Pakko said that’s because this time around, it’s female-dominated industries in the service sector–like hospitality–that are struggling.
And the pandemic is revealing inequalities at home.
“Women tend to take on about 60-percent of the childcare responsibilities,” he said. “And we have a situation where schools and daycare centers are limited and restricted. So that puts more of a home production burden on women as well.”
This is something Donna Jackson knows as a single mom.
“We don’t have good childcare,” Jackson said. “As far as more government agencies to help with the child care. Women here don’t make 18,000 a year if you’re lucky.”
Women like Jackson are having to make difficult choices just to get by.
“I moved home,” she said. “If I couldn’t make rent, my dad wouldn’t kick me and my son out, so I’m fortunate.”
Pakko said it’s promising that Arkansas’ unemployment hasn’t been as high as the rest of the country. He said he believes those service sector jobs will return as the vaccine rolls out and the pandemic ends.
Read the full story on the KATV 7 website here.