Jul 20, 2023 - Economy

Gender pay gap now the narrowest on record

Women's earnings as a share of men's earnings
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Note: Seasonally adjusted; Chart: Axios Visuals

America's working women were feared to suffer the worst in the pandemic recovery. The opposite, however, has proven to be the case, with women serving as historic drivers of a labor market that remains surprisingly strong.

Why it matters: The pay gap between full-time working women and male counterparts is now the narrowest on record. The dynamic has been long in the making — a reflection of discrimination's slow fade and other structural forces that have held women back on pay.

  • But it is also a result of a resilient, tight labor market where women have entered the workforce in droves.

What they're saying: "Many women are coming back into the labor force at higher wage rates than before," says Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. "What was a 'she-cession' in some ways appears to be turning into a 'she-boom.'"

By the numbers: Full-time working women had median weekly earnings of $1,001 last quarter, about 84% of the $1,185 male median.

  • Male employees continue to earn more than their female counterparts. But by this measure, the pay gap is the narrowest since the government began collecting data in 1979.

Where it stands: Women have been the driving force behind multi-decade highs in employment rates for working-age Americans. Roughly 75% of 25- to 54-year-old women are employed — the highest share on record.

The bottom line: Those higher employment rates for women, paired with early signs of bigger strides in shrinking the pay gap, might set this economic cycle apart from others.

  • "In the 2010s, there was a lot of progress for women on plenty of other measures, like labor force participation rates. There was less progress on pay, which really baffled observers," Pollak says.

Go deeper: Listen to the Axios Today podcast, where Felix Salmon and Emily Peck talk more about why the gender pay gap is shrinking.

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