Feb 3, 2021 - News

The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on Minnesota's working moms

Illustration of baby stroller falling down line graph

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The pandemic has pushed Minnesota mothers out of the workforce in large numbers and, unlike fathers, they have yet to return, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Driving the news: Workforce participation among the state's moms of young kids dropped 11 percentage points in the three months ending in November compared with the same period in 2019, the Fed's researchers found, a higher rate than in neighboring states.

The big picture: This new research confirms that working moms in Minnesota and beyond are being hit especially hard by the pandemic.

  • The National Women's Law Center estimates that women across the country have lost a combined 5.4 million jobs since the start of the crisis.
  • Here in Minnesota, unemployment benefit requests from women outpaced those from men throughout much of the last year.

Yes, but: Economists warn that uncertainty in the pandemic labor market and small sample sizes make it difficult to decipher the full impact on women.

  • Another data set from the Department of Employment and Economic Development shows women's overall workforce participation in Minnesota growing between February and November.

Why it matters: Experts worry the uneven toll could undo years of progress toward pay parity and representation, including at the highest levels of leadership.

  • "It will set all those positive movements back," Minneapolis Fed outreach director Ron Wirtz told us, also noting that it generally takes longer to find a job than to lose a job.

Driving the trend: Caregiving responsibilities, including distance-learning supervision, and job cuts in female-dominated sectors, such as the hospitality industry.

  • Mothers of young children are more likely than men to report that care responsibilities continue to keep them out of the labor force, according to the Fed.

What they're saying: Half of the surveyed members of The Coven, a Twin Cities co-working space and community for women, nonbinary and trans people, said they were doing less paid work but more unpaid labor at home.

  • "[They] are struggling to keep up with the amount of work that is required of parents who are now expected to be teachers," co-founder Alex West Steinman told Axios.

The bottom line: A lack of available child care, including schooling options, is a big issue and one that "will affect how quickly labor markets and the economy recover" post-pandemic, the Fed notes.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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