State of the Labor Market

April Jobs Day Preview: A Strong Labor Market Is Pulling Women Back into the Labor Force


Ahead of Mother’s Day and Jobs Day, how has the strong labor market affected women’s participation in the labor market? Prime-age labor force participation for both men and women has continued to improve during the recovery. (Prime-age workers are those in their mid-twenties to mid-fifties.) For women it is recovering faster than it is for men, partially because family responsibilities are keeping fewer women out of the labor force.

From the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2019, workers coming back into the labor force despite disability or illness, or because they now saw opportunities in the labor market, accounted for around three-fourths of the increase in participation for both prime-aged men and women.

But for women, the amount that prime-age women’s labor force participation increased from no longer behind held back by family responsibilities was 0.56 percentage point. For men, it was only 0.11 percentage point. A tight labor market seems to help women bargain for what they need to balance work and family.

This month I’ll be looking to see:

  1. If the economy continues to add jobs faster in higher-paying industries and see faster wage growth in lower-paying industries;
  2. If prime-age women’s labor force participation continues to grow;
  3. And if workers who haven’t felt the recovery as much, like the long-term unemployed and those working part-time but would prefer full-time work, find the jobs they want.
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