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Pandemic pushes women out of workforce

February 17, 2021
Peoria skyline
Peoria skyline(Jason L Howell | 25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 4:37 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 NEWS) - As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, the effects of the coronavirus on the American economy are still being tabulated.

But, one of the glaring issues is the way this pandemic has pushed the ladies away.

As of New Year’s Eve, the 12 months that were 2020 yielded a net, nationwide 5.5 million jobs lost, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Federal data show that greater Peoria’s leisure and hospitality industry alone lost an incredible 40 to 50% of it’s employees during the pandemic.

But the COVID Effect is spread out.

You can even see it in the tax preparation room at Metec Resource Center in Peoria.

There is uncertainty about how to account for the strangest of strange years.

“And I had never cleaned anyone’s house, other than my own. And so, that was a different kind of mindset,” said Marilynn Brack, a job seeker utilizing the offerings at Metec.

But she did clean some homes after she arrived in Peoria from Chicago, with a communications degree, nearly 7 years ago.

She takes money matters and home buying classes at Metec, now.

Many of those classes are filled with women like her, who are also trying get back into the workforce.

“I’m not getting frustrated about that because I’m re-learning. I’m trying to re-invent myself, again,” Brack said.

She’s been on and off unemployment since April of 2019.

Brack had also been working temp jobs here and there with an eye toward a fulfilling job or another five years or so.

“My thing is, the bills have to be paid. And sometimes you just do what you have to do in order to pay your bills. You’ll just take something immediately. It’s not the grand job that you want, you life’s work. Your work life’s purpose, any of that thing,” Brack said. “It’s just, you have to work.”

She’s not in the labor force now, though.

And she’s far from alone.

In December and January, nearly 400,000 net jobs were lost across the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 80 % of those jobs had been held by women.

“So, Peoria’s unemployment rate of 6.8% doesn’t take into account anyone who’s not looking for a job. Which, most women trying to take care of their kids are not looking for jobs,” said Economics Prof. Colin Corbett at Bradley University.

Professor Colin Corbett at Bradley University says changes at school and remote learning - coinciding with fewer options for day care - have a lot to do with fading female, labor numbers.

He fears big business has learned how to continue on, generating profits without them.

“We no longer need restaurants that primarily cater to lunch for office workers. Or, like janitorial staffs,” Prof. Corbett said. “And, like, in office secretaries, many of those jobs are primarily held by women.”

With so many doors still closed, windows covered, the economist doesn’t see a big return for months.

“I’m not confident that the economy will really rebound until late summer, Prof. Corbett said. “Even if we open things up, people are still very hesitant to put themselves in danger.”

On the business side, Summit Product Support in Peoria is one locally owned company that felt the effects of the stay at home orders.

They do painting and coating for industrial machines.

And Summit has been in a slowdown mode for months.

Career development, training, even promotions have all been on hold.

“We weren’t providing a lot of leadership & development training. It was mostly acute HR need of dealing with the pandemic,” said Erik Christian, owner of HR Fit, a human relations consultant.

“As far as our production, you know, we have seen a little bit of a slowdown but we’ve been able to , so far, you know, work through it,” said Ben Mallender-Berg, Operations Director at Summit Product Support.”We’ve just had to kind of adjust our schedules. Instead of working 5 days a week we’re working 4 days a week. And doing everything we can to kind of ensure that everyone stays busy, staying working.”

They have some three dozen employees and, kept all of them.

Two women were just promoted, Mallender-Berg said.

And training resumed last month.

Prof. Corbett says getting women back to work can often go back to costs of daycare.

Utah’s Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has an idea.

Earlier this month proposed the “Family Security Act”

The proposal would pay Americans $3,000 per child, more for the youngest kids.

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