Number of Women in US Workforce Reaches Historic High

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek May 25, 2023

​More women are now in the U.S. workforce than at any time in recent history, according to news reports. Women left the workforce at higher rates than men in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported, in part as virtual school and less access to child care became the norm and fewer attractive jobs were available. In January, the number of women ages 25 to 54 in the workforce returned to pre-pandemic levels.

A variety of factors are contributing to these rising numbers, including the availability of remote or hybrid work schedules and more women starting their own businesses. According to a World Economic Forum study, women made up 47 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs starting businesses in 2022, compared with 29 percent prior to the pandemic.

Additionally, more women are entering manufacturing and more Black women are in the workforce. In fact, despite a fluctuating economy, Black workers are landing jobs at record numbers, SHRM Online reported.

SHRM Online collected the following news reports on this topic: 

Record Share of Women Now at Work

The proportion of women ages 25 to 54 who are employed or actively seeking work hit 77.5 percent in April—the highest level since the federal government began tracking labor-force participation in the 1940s. The trend is particularly surprising because the pandemic spawned a "she-cession" as women left jobs to care for children amid school and day care closures. But the rise of remote work, along with a strong labor market and high inflation, is driving their return, Bloomberg reports.

(LinkedIn News

Women's Return to the Workforce Piles Momentum on a Hot Economy

American women are staging a return to the workforce that is helping propel the economy in the face of high inflation and rising interest rates. The unemployment rate in January touched a 53-year low of 3.4 percent. A greater supply of labor could work to counter rising wages and align with the Federal Reserve's goal of cooling inflation.

Women are "a hugely important group for propelling that labor supply and helping perhaps take a little bit of the heat off of inflation," said Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo Bank.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Working Women: Data from the Past, Present and Future

The total number of women in the labor force is expected to continue to rise over the next eight years, driven by women over the age of 25, according to projections from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL projects that women ages 25 to 54 will add about 2.9 million more workers.

(U.S. Department of Labor Blog

April Jobs Report: Black Women's Employment at 22-Year High

Over the past year, Black women's employment rate has risen 2.5 percentage points, bringing it to 61.1 percent. In February 2020, Black women's employment rate was 60.8 percent after having risen steadily since 2011. Black women were one of the hardest hit groups during the pandemic, with higher rates of unemployment, the highest rates of death from COVID-19, and high rates of employment in essential services during the pandemic. 

Their unemployment rate in April was 4.2 percent, a record low, and while it remains higher than the 2.8 percent unemployment rate among white women, the gap between the two has shrunk substantially over the year. Across just about every measure, Black women have more than fully rebounded

(University of Michigan

More Women Join the Manufacturing Workforce

In manufacturing, female employment reached its height this year, with a total of 3.77 million workers, according to calculations from the National Association of Manufacturers based on numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women now account for 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce.




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