Women Drive the Labor-Force Comeback

from The Wall Street Journal,

The share of women participating in the workforce is rising much faster than for men.

The gender gap that pervades so much of worklife also is shaping the U.S. labor pool’s recent rebound, only this time it is women who are driving most of the gains. For most of the job market’s near-decade recovery, the steady decline in unemployment was marked by a stubborn paradox: Though more people were finding jobs again, many others stopped looking for work, meaning they were no longer counted as unemployed. How many people participate in the labor force—meaning they are either working or looking for a job—is important because it helps determine how much potential the economy has to grow. Only since 2016 has the labor-participation rate of prime-working-age adults—the term economists use—staged a turnaround. Women—particularly those in their late 20s and early 30s—account for most of the recovery, while men played a much smaller part. The share of prime-age women who are in the labor pool rose to 75.8% in the last quarter of 2018 from 73.8% three years earlier, federal data show. By contrast, for their male peers, participation climbed less than a percentage point to 89% over the same period.

Rising wages, particularly at the low end of the pay scale, and a surge in jobs that have traditionally attracted women, such as in health care and education, are drawing people like Mary Jane Kelliher back into the job market.

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