J. Kent's Blog - Articles for Employers and Job Seekers

Women Now Make Up the Majority of the U.S. Labor Force

Posted by: Emma Berdanier on February 26th, 2020

Women have replaced men as the majority of jobholders in the U.S. labor force. According to data from the Labor Department, women held 50.04% of nonfarm payroll positions in December 2019. This is the highest share women have held since 2010.

The Roles Women are Increasingly Filling

To reach this percentage in the labor force, women have been taking on more traditionally masculine jobs as well as continuing to work in traditionally feminine roles.

Women now make up 13.8% of all mining and logging jobs, up from 12.6% in 2018. The number of women in manufacturing roles is also on the rise. Almost one-third of transportation and manufacturing roles in 2019 were held by women.

Still, women have the biggest presence in the education and health services sectors. Women hold over 75% of roles in these industries. They also make up 58% of government services roles and account for 56% of positions in financial activities.

What’s Causing the Scale to Tip More Towards Women?

Women’s increasing role in this data from the Labor Department directly coincides with a decline in participation from men. While the participation rate for all prime-age workers (those workers who are between 25 and 54 years old) rose to a decade high in December 2019, this was mostly due to gains among women. The participation rate for prime-age female workers in the U.S. labor force rose to an 18 year high that same month.

This data indicates that women are picking up the slack created by men exiting or simply not entering the labor force. In the 1950s, close to 100% of working-age men participated in the labor force. In 2019 the working-age male participation rate was 89%.

There are multiple reasons for this shift in participation, including more men staying at home with their children, an increased retirement rate for baby boomers, and an opioid crisis that disproportionately affects men. Despite these various explanations, one thing is clear: women are getting to work!