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Unemployment Among Single Mothers, Women of Color at Highest Level Since Recession Began

Stories about the July jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics generally noted that the unemployment rate stayed at 9.5 percent (slightly up for all women, slightly down for all men), 131,000 jobs were lost, and 14.6 million Americans, about the same number as in June, were unemployed. That news is grim enough—but when we went deeper into the data, we found even more alarming trends for women.

Unemployment for women who head families shot up to 13.4 percent in July from 12.1 percent in June. This marks the highest unemployment rate for this particularly vulnerable group since the recession began in December 2007 and the highest rate in over 25 years.

Unemployment among African-American women jumped from 11.8 percent in June to 12.9 percent in July. The situation was similar for Hispanic women, whose unemployment rate increased by 1.1 percentage points to 12.1 percent in July, marking this group's highest unemployment rate since 1986.

Women lost 62 percent of the 131,000 non-farm jobs lost in July. While the private sector added 71,000 jobs, women's employment actually dropped by 1,000 jobs in this area. Additionally, state and local government education systems, a female-dominated sector, shed a substantial number of jobs. Preliminary numbers reveal that local education lost 27,100 jobs, the largest loss of any industry (excluding temporary Census workers).

These numbers unmistakably show that vulnerable families are being hit hardest by the recession. And while we're pleased that the Senate finally approved some aid to states and localities to protect Medicaid and education, we're outraged that Congress is cutting necessary food stamp benefits to pay for this relief instead of making investment fund managers pay their fair share of taxes. And we're worried that this scaled-back package of assistance—which includes only half of the Medicaid and education funds originally sought and doesn't include any funding for the TANF Emergency Fund, child care, or child support—won't be enough to strengthen a weak economy.

I hope it doesn't take more months of news like this for Congress to get it right.

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