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August jobs report shows women’s employment is especially vulnerable to COVID surges

September 7, 2021, 1:01 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Naomi Osaka is taking a break, other states are imitating the Texas model, and women’s economic rebound lost some momentum in August. Have a meaningful Tuesday.

– Losing momentum. July was a bright spot in American women’s battle to regain some of the jobs they lost during the pandemic. Of the 943,000 jobs the U.S. added, 68.8% went to women. But last month, that positive sentiment faded. The U.S. economy added a disappointing 235,000 jobs in August as the surging Delta variant of COVID-19 hit hiring, and women accounted for only 11.9% of those gains, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Women’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.8% from 5% the month prior, but 41,000 women left the labor force altogether—meaning they’re not working or looking for work—pushing women’s labor force participation rate to 57.4%, well below the pre-pandemic rate of 59.2%. 

The unemployment rate for Black women was even worse at 7.9%, but that is likely due, in part, to a large number of Black workers reentering the labor force—but not necessarily finding immediate employment—in August.  

The child care sector, vital to freeing up women in other industries to return to work, lost nearly 6,000 jobs in August. Overall, child care has shed 126,700 jobs—or 1 in 8 positions—since February 2020. 

Women lost jobs across leisure and hospitality, government, education, and health services—sectors that they dominate and that are especially vulnerable to surges of the virus. 

“These are some of the biggest sectors for women’s jobs,” Jasmine Tucker, director of research at NWLC, told CNBC. “Unfortunately, demand for these services could go down as COVID cases rise because people are going to dine and shop less, for example, if they’re worried about getting sick.”

Claire Zillman

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Claire Zillman.


- Taking a break. After losing her third-round match at the U.S. Open on Friday, tennis star Naomi Osaka signaled that she was taking an extended break from the game. "I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match," said the star, who's talked publicly about her battle with depression. Among tennis pros, she's not alone in her struggle

- Alibaba fallout. The former Alibaba manager accused by a subordinate of sexual assault in a case that shocked Chinese Big Tech won't face criminal charges. Authorities had investigated the manager after a female colleague claimed he'd assaulted and raped her following an alcohol-soaked business meeting. Meanwhile, Alibaba says it fired 10 employees who leaked the women's account—posted on an internal forum—to the public.

- Race to be first. After Japanese Prime Minster Yoshihide Suga announced he would step down last week, the race is on to succeed him. Former communications minister Sanae Takaichi intends to declare as a Liberal Democratic Party candidate for the job, putting her in the running to be Japan's first female PM. Nikkei

- Rescue mission. Summia Tora, the first-ever Rhodes scholar from Afghanistan, worked her connections at Oxford University to get her father and uncle out of Afghanistan after Kabul fell. She now plans to dedicate her life to evacuating other Afghans out of the country through an organization she founded called Dosti Network. Dosti means friendship in Urdu. New York Times


- The Texas model. After Texas passed its near total ban on abortion, other states are already planning to mimic the legislation. Republican officials in at least seven states, including Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and South Dakota, have suggested they may review or change their states’ laws to mirror Texas’s new measure. Washington Post

- Lone Star state. Speaking of Texas, Oxfam America, the organization that seeks to end poverty, ranked the state fourth-worst for working women, even without considering the new abortion law. The organization's ranking takes into account measures like wage policies, the right to organize, and protections for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Fortune

- Covering 9/11. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Marie Claire interviewed five female journalists on what it was like to cover the terrorist attacks. Sonya Ross of the AP was with traveling with President George W. Bush and remembers the pressure of covering that historic day: "I felt this was a moment in which I'd be judged and I didn't want to fail." Marie Claire 

- Dress code protest. Ever since she was written up for distressed jeans on the first day of eighth grade last month, Sophia Trevino has led a campaign against her school's dress code, calling it sexist, racist, and classist. “In school, they think that the boys are just drooling over our shoulders and our thighs,” Trevino said. “They aren’t. They don’t care. And even if they do, that’s not our fault. That’s theirs.” New York Times


Opinion: This Labor Day, meet America's newest union-in-the-making CNN

The Women’s March is back in October to rally for reproductive rights Washingtonian

All of those ‘hysterical’ women were right The Atlantic


"I don’t think it makes me a lesser reporter that I am moved by it."

-CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward on reporting on women's plight in Afghanistan. 

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