The recent drop in unemployment to 8.6 percent was widely greeted with enthusiasm. However, it is important to note which populations actually comprise that figure. Women who maintain families face unemployment rates over 12 percent, and more than five million women over the age of 20 are unemployed. Duration of unemployment is another key factor, with women under 20 needing roughly ten months to find work while women over 55 required more than a full year (See Summary Table A, Household Data). Although 2011 is drawing to a close, Congress still has several opportunities to address these issues. Passing Emergency Unemployment Insurance (as proposed in the House and Senate) would be a great start. The Pathways Back to Work Act, introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would be a boon for single mothers and minority women. Avoiding cuts in the Workforce Investment Act is also crucial, because that bill created a One-Stop Career Center system that often ties in with programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
The implications of these issues could be profound for the clients of social workers. Any cuts, or even the absence of Congressional action on these bills, could harm the well-being of women and their families across the country. For women struggling to find work in this difficult economy, and even many who have been able to gain employment, any setbacks in our fragile economy could prove devastating. NASW supports any and all measures that maintain current employment opportunities and actively create new chances for everyone, including women, to find work.