Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Changing Gender Balance in America's Workforce

An analysis of the November 2013 employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) shows the gender divergence in the recovery of jobs since the employment peak for women way back in March 2008, a divergence that I find most interesting.

Let's open by looking at the labor force participation rate statistics for women from 1990 to the present:


The present rate of women's labor force participation is 56.9 percent, down only 3.4 percentage points or 5.6 percent from its April 2000 all-time peak of 60.3 percent.  This is in sharp contrast to men's labor force participation as you will see next.

Now, let's look at the labor force participation rate statistics for men from 1990 to the present:


Men's labor force participation rate has dropped from 76.7 percent in 1990 to its current level of 69.2 percent, a record low since record-keeping began in 1948.  This is a drop of 7.5 percentage points or 9.8 percent since 1990, nearly three times the drop experienced by women.  To put the current rate into historical context, this is a drop of 18.2 percentage points or 20.8 percent from the record participation rate of 87.4 percent set in back in October 1949.

Now, let's look at the actual number of women employed in nonfarm jobs since the beginning of the new millennium:


At its pre-Great Recession peak in December 2007, there were 68.109 million women employed in the United States.  This quickly fell to a post-Great Recession low of 63.774 million by July 2010, a loss of 4.365 million jobs or 6.4 percent of the pre-recession total.  By October 2013, the number of working women had risen back to very nearly its its pre-Great Recession level, hitting 67.952 million.  Basically, in just over three years, the number of women working in the United States returned to its pre-recession level.

Now, let's look at the number of men employed in nonfarm jobs since the beginning of the new millennium:


At its pre-Great Recession peak in June 2007, there were 70.901 million men working in the United States.  This fell to a post-Great Recession low of 64.681 million in February 2010, a loss of 6.22 million jobs or 8.8 percent of the total.  Unfortunately, for the males among us, by October 2013, there were only 69.068 million American males working, 1.833 million fewer than just before the Great Recession entrenched itself.

If we look back to the beginning of this posting at the labor force participation rates for both men and women, it becomes quite apparent that without the substantial drop in men working or wanting to work, there would be a far more serious employment situation on the male side of the ledger.

According to the IWPR analysis, there has been strong employment growth in both Education and Health Care since the end of the Great Recession.  Since both of these sectors of the economy tend to have a high concentration of female workers, the result has been a faster job recovery for women than for men.  For example, in July 2009, there were 18.878 million Americans employed in both Education and Health Care; this rose to 19.250 million in July 2010 and kept rising to its current level of 20.948 million in October 2013, an increase of 2.07 million jobs or 47 percent of the jobs lost by women during the Great Recession.


Apparently, until male-oriented job sectors such as construction and manufacturing see a resurgence, the growth number of employed men will continue to lag that of women  and, if current trends hold, we could find that for the first time in recorded Bureau of Labor Statistics history, the number of women working in America exceeds the number of men with jobs.  It appears that if it weren't for an increase in the number of women with jobs, the U.S. employment picture would look far worse than it currently does.
  

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