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An Early Readout on the Economic Effects of the COVID-19 Crisis: Immigrant Women Have the Highest Unemployment
Fact Sheets
November 2020

An Early Readout on the Economic Effects of the COVID-19 Crisis: Immigrant Women Have the Highest Unemployment

Working-age immigrant women in the United States entered the COVID-19-induced recession with unemployment rates similar to those of other groups. Yet they have been among the most affected by pandemic-related job losses, seeing their unemployment peak at 18.5 percent before declining to 11.2 percent in September 2020—even as jobless rates for immigrant men and U.S.-born men and women never topped 16 percent and fell below 8 percent in September.

Data Tool: Mapping Shifting Unemployment by Group

Check out this data tool to explore unemployment rates for immigrants and other U.S. workers before and since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In addition to nativity and gender, this tool allows you to break down trends by race/ethnicity, educational attainment, and industry, and to compare unemployment for different groups over time.

Just 46 percent of working-age immigrant women were employed in September, a 7 percentage point swing from their employment rate in January before the lockdowns, social distancing, and other pandemic-related measures began.
This fact sheet seeks to explain why immigrant women have been hit so hard by the coronavirus-induced recession, which triggered unemployment levels unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It suggests the drop in employment for foreign-born women may be due, in part, to their often-dual roles as workers and parents, which became even more complex when many school districts turned to distance learning. The concentration of immigrant women in certain labor market niches, including in leisure and hospitality, may also explain their stubbornly high unemployment rate.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  How Have Labor Market Outcomes Changed for Immigrant Men and Women?
Employment and Labor Force Participation

3  Why Have Immigrants, and Especially Immigrant Women, Had the Highest Unemployment Rates?

4  Conclusion