Is a Female Workforce Majority on the Horizon?

Friday, May 08, 2009

By late summer, it is possible that for the first time in American history, women will make up a majority of the labor force. When the recession began in December 2007, there were 138.2 million nonfarm payroll jobs, 48.7 percent were held by women. The latest employment report showed that in February 2009 employment had dropped to 133.7 million, of which 49.6 percent of jobs were held by women.

Since October 2008, men have been losing their jobs at a greater rate than women. Three quarters of the total employment decline has been attributed to the employment decline of men. If this pattern continues, the female percentage of the work force will continue climbing and may exceed that of men by August 2009.
If, as the Obama administration predicts, the labor market will improve by the third quarter, then the female employment rates will not exceed 50 percent. During the economic recovery, the employment levels of men will begin to rise again; male–intensive industries like construction and machinery manufacturing will start to expand while those of women is expected to remain the same.
To give some historical perspective, during the most famous increase in female employment, during World War II, the percentage of women in the workforce rose from 26% in 1940 to 36% in 1945.
-Jessica Giffin
When Will Women Become a Work-Force Majority? (by Casey B. Mulligan, New York Times)


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