COVID-19 and the Labor Market Outcomes for Prime-Aged Women COVID-19 and the Labor Market Outcomes for Prime-Aged Women

This paper documents labor market outcomes for prime-aged women relative to those for prime-aged men since the COVID-19 pandemic officially started. The pandemic-induced recession has played out very differently compared with previous recessions, with women initially losing jobs at higher rates than men. While the pandemic has been hard for everybody, it has resulted in a widening of the gender gaps in employment and labor force participation of roughly 2 percentage points. The gaps grew initially due to occupation distribution differences across genders as well as school closings. Women without children started to close the incremental gender gaps after the summer months, but the larger gender gap persists for mothers. The safe reopening of in-person K–12 education is critical for this group of women to regain employment as the economy recovers.