Thursday, May 24, 2018

Labor Force Participation: Women Haven’t Waited on the Sidelines in Years

As labor force participation surged to record highs in the late 1990s, a large source of new labor force entrants were women who hadn’t worked in the past. By the late 1990s women had closed much of the gap with male participation rates, as male participation was already declining throughout the 1980s. Since reaching its peak in the late 1990s, women’s participation has also trended downward, as the female population is aging to the same degree as the male population. Bringing more women into the labor force is a strategy often mentioned to grow the labor force, but the majority of women are already in the labor force and many women who aren’t currently in the labor force are already retired.

The female and male experience of the last recession highlighted some interesting trends. Labor force participation among males dropped throughout the recession, from 72.3 percent in 2007 – just prior to the recession – to 65.9 percent in 2013. Female participation actually increased during the recession, moving from 59.5 percent in 2007 to 61.3 percent in 2011, before a sharper drop took hold and the female participation rate dropped to 55.6 percent in 2013. Since 2013, male and female participation in Oregon have followed the same trend.

The different trends during recession likely result from a couple of factors. First, the sectors that dropped jobs very rapidly during the recession, construction and manufacturing particularly, employ mostly male workers. So males felt the brunt of those heavy job losses. Also, some females joined the labor force in the midst of the recession as their spouses lost jobs and income.
To learn more about trends in labor force participation rates in Oregon, read the full article Demographics Drive Long-Term Declines in Labor Force Participation, written by employment economist Jessica Nelson

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