The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported a loss of 140,000 net jobs in December. That was bad enough but a closer analysis by the National Women’s Law Center revealed that with women losing 156,000 jobs and men gaining 16,000, women essentially accounted for all the jobs lost.

The center’s analysis also showed that 863,000 women left the labor force in December and only 27,000 returned. The center further noted that there were nearly 2.1 million fewer women in the labor force than there were in February, before the pandemic started.

The jobless rates were highest for women of color. Of the 6.3% of women unemployed in December, 9.1% were Latina and 8.4% were Black women. That compared with 5.7% for white women who were unemployed.

All the disparate data suggest that the pandemic trampled on women every which way. The industry sectors where women’s employment is more concentrated got pummeled. And once the stay-at-home orders took effect, many women were forced to scale back work to juggle childcare and caregiving duties for vulnerable senior. Domestic squabbles and violence affecting women also escalated.

According to the National Women’s Law Center analysis, the leisure and hospitality sector lost 498,000 jobs in December; women accounted for 57% of those job losses, despite making up 53% of the sector’s workforce. The government sector lost 45,000 jobs, with women accounting for 91% of those losses, even though they make up 57.5% of the sector’s workforce. And while the retail trade sector gained 120,500 jobs, women accounted for only 44% of those gains even though they make up 48.5% of the industry.

Michelle Courtright’s restaurant Fig & Farro in Minneapolis was among the many casualties of the pandemic. When Covid-19 hit, things began to slow at the thriving vegan eatery Courtright opened in 2018. She says friends and family told her things would be fine and encouraged her to hang on for a few months. “But it was not fine. We had to close down in March.”

She received the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loan shortly after she closed; it helped her reopen her takeout business, but the sales were dismal, one-tenth that of normal sales, she says. And while the PPP money helped, she had to manage it in such a way that it would be forgiven.

She brought back all 35 employees, paid payroll taxes on them and spent several thousand dollars on safety and precautionary measures. But in the end, she says she lost money using the program loan. The restaurant was shuttered for good in May.

Hers joined tens of thousands of other businesses. Last year, the Yelp Economic Average showed that 163,735 businesses had closed by August 31, 2020. (That figure had improved since the start of the pandemic in March, when Yelp said 180,000 businesses closed.)

“I remember closing the restaurant,” Courtright says. “It was tragic. I was in a very, very deep depression, crying every day.” She adds that she was supported and encouraged to keep going by her family and professional network, as well as her financial advisor, Katherine Forrester Schneewind, the co-founder and CEO of High Note Wealth in Deephaven, Minn.

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