165,000 women left the U.S. labor force in April, reversing a months-long trend of improving numbers

Women Leaving Workforce
165,000 women withdrew from the labor force in April.
Gary Hershorn—Getty Images

Women dropped out of the U.S. labor force in April for the first time since January, signaling the jobs recovery may be more haphazard than expected even as more schools reopen and vaccinations accelerate.

Some 165,000 women aged 20 and over withdrew from the labor force, meaning they aren’t employed or searching for a job. The total Latina labor force is down 5% since the pandemic began, the biggest shortfall of any of the major race and gender groups tracked by the Department of Labor, followed by Black women.

Women have seen disproportionate job losses during the pandemic as schools, day care and elder care closures forced many of them to leave work to care for children, elderly parents or sick family members.

At the height of the pandemic in April of last year, the female labor force shrank dramatically but has been steadily improving in recent months.

Total employment for women aged 20 and over fell in April from the prior month, with Latina and White women seeing the biggest declines.

For men and women, the unemployment rate declined for White and Asian workers while rising slightly for Black Americans. Unemployment rates remained unchanged for Hispanic workers of both genders. The gap between White and Black unemployment widened to the most since November.

Black Americans saw a big increase in labor force participation, though, indicating that more workers have returned to the labor market. The rate, 61.2%, remains the lowest among the major race groups.

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