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McDowell: Female recession hits where It hurts

McDowell: Female recession hits where It hurts

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"They say the best indication of a man being in love is loss of appetite. Oh, by the way, is lunch almost ready? I'm starved."

Ozzie Nelson in “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”

Sixteen million American men left the work force to serve during World War II, and women filled many of the jobs they left behind. At the war's conclusion, men were rehired, making many of those working women unemployed.

There may be a parallel for women in the current labor market, because more women left the workforce last month (865,000) than the total number of jobs the country added (661,000).

Statistics released last week from the Department of Labor indicate that in September, some 865,000 women over the age of 20 dropped out of the workforce, while 216,000 men of the same age left their jobs. So four times as many women as men quit working last month. We haven't seen similar numbers since the end of WWII.

Industries with high numbers of layoffs, like leisure, hospitality and retail, often employ more women. Women also comprise a large percentage of teachers and government workers, and many have not returned to work during the pandemic.

In addition, many working Americans of both genders have retired and are retiring early due to the pandemic. Estimates are that four million Americans, at least half of whom are women, have and will retire early due to Covid-19.

When the threat of the virus in the workplace first became known early last spring, women left the workplace in higher numbers than men and returned in lower numbers when they did come back. Of the 22 million jobs that were lost in March and April, 55% of them were held by women. But of the 2.5 million jobs that were filled during the month of May, only 45% employed women.

The issue of child care is problematic for working women. Many children are staying home and learning through virtual online classes. And women are four to five times likelier than men to cut back work hours or leave the workforce to provide childcare.

As Dalvin Brown of USA Today wrote, "They’re (women) overseeing their kids' education and tying up loose ends to keep the family running. It’s the type of work that seems to only get noticed if it hasn’t been done. It’s often referred to as “invisible work” or the kind of behind-the-scenes effort that is unpaid, unacknowledged, sometimes unrewarding but mostly essential."

With married couples, if a man and a woman both work, and one must leave the workforce to supervise children, most families opt for giving up the job that pays less. And more often than not, it is the woman's job that brings in less income.

In many ways, it's like a return to the days of Ozzie and Harriet. Ozzie goes to work; Harriet stays home. But living on one paycheck today isn't nearly as easy as it was for the Nelsons. And yes, Ozzie, lunch is ready.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC®, AIF®, author of the syndicated economic column “Arbor Outlook,” is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 –, a fiduciary, “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Destin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.

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