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Idaho experiencing “shecession” as local moms take brunt of economic crisis

allison and josie sit at kitchen counter watching lessons on laptop
KIFI/KIDK
Allison Mewes helps her daughter Josie with her online school, while trying to juggle her work from home.

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Allison Mewes said she's lucky, because she already worked from home before the pandemic.

But like a lot of moms, she's had to cut her hours at St. Lukes Medical Center so she has time to help her daughter Josie with school. Rather than risk the fluctuating schedule of in-person learning, the Mewes chose to have Josie go through 3rd grade online.

“Moms already have a lot to juggle, but when you add being a teacher to the mix, it’s just very stressful for families that are doing that at home,” Mewes said.

Now that Josie and Allison are both spending their days on the computer at the kitchen counter, Allison said she feels spread thin.

“It’s like me going back and forth between our two computers and trying to manage conference calls while she’s next to me. It’s extremely difficult. I beg my husband to come home at lunch so I can have a break,” Mewes said.

Mewes' manager is allowing her to cut back on her hours, which is something a lot of moms at her company are doing.

“A lot of the women I work with have to take blocks of time off work to be able to help their children,” Mewes said.

In fact, this is a common trend among women in Idaho. At the start of the recession, about 60% of unemployment claims in Idaho came from women, according to data from the Idaho Department of Labor. As jobs have started to come back throughout the year, that gender gap narrowed, but it still exists.

There are several factors contributing to the shecession, but one leading influence is the industries that have been most impacted by the shutdowns.

Healthcare, food service and retail industries have had the most number of unemployment claims in Idaho throughout the pandemic.

“The thing that’s notable about those three (industries), is that they are very heavily skewed to the female population,” said Esther Eke, the East Idaho regional ecumenist for the DOL.

This is a sharp contrast to the Great Recession of 2008.

“When you compare this recession to the last recession, the last recession was dominated by the construction industry because it was mostly triggered by the housing bubble, and the construction industry is mostly male dominated," Eke said. "So, then it was the mancession and now we have the shecession because of the industry makeup."

It's happening nationwide, too. From February to May, 11.5 million women lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 closures, whereas 9 million men lost theirs, according to the Guardian's August report.

The childcare industry has also been hit hard by the recession, which is contributing to the struggle parents are facing as they try to work with a young child at home. Only 18% of child care programs expect that they will survive longer than a year, according to a survey done by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

“It may potentially impact the labor workforce participation of women because statistically, women tend to be more involved in childcare,” Eke said.

Another factor that could be driving women to quit jobs or reduce hours is the gender wage gap. Women tend to have lower paying jobs than their male partners. So, when faced with the choice of who should stay home with the children, the person with the lower wage will often be the one to quit.

“I feel like a lot of women feel like they're being left behind in the workforce because they’re having to quit work or go part-time to help their kids with school. I hope it’s just a temporary thing,” Mewes said.

But some economists say that women's job losses set back gender employment gains by a decade. How long these impacts will last is as uncertain as the pandemic.

Economy / Education / Idaho / Idaho Falls / Local News / Pocatello / Top Stories / Videos
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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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