May 6, 2024 - Economy

More women are working now than at any time in U.S. history

The line chart shows the employment rate of U.S. women aged 25-54 from January 2000 to April 2024. The rate fluctuates between 63.4% and 75.5%. A significant drop is observed in April 2020, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the trend recovers and continues to rise thereafter reaching a series high of 75.5% in April 2024.
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

More working-age women are employed than ever before in U.S. history, according to Friday's jobs report.

Why it matters: The rise in flexible work arrangements is likely helping, in addition to the strong labor market.

  • The increase in women working also likely contributed to the recent strength in household spending, Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, writes in a note.

Zoom in: The employment numbers — technically the employment-to-population ratio — include part-time workers. So it would include women who want to work full-time but can't due to child care issues.

  • Women overall are working less now than in 2019, as ADP research found earlier this year.
  • Much of the improvement was driven by college-educated women (those are the ones who can work remotely) with children under 3, Diane Swonk, chief economist of KPMG said in a post on X Friday.

The bottom line: "Moral of the story. Women are working and caring for their families, but a crisis in childcare is making it harder for them to stay at work," Swonk posted. "This could snowball and cause another setback in the pay gap between women and men."

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