Remember the "She-cession," the notion that the pandemic and its aftermath would be worst for women in the labor market? It hasn't quite worked out that way. 🤷‍♀️

  • More below, plus an update from our colleague Felix Salmon on today's launch of the FedNow instant payments system.

Situational awareness: The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits fell to the lowest since mid-May last week, with a mere 228,000 initial claims. Markets took the robust numbers as a hawkish sign for Fed policy, pushing two-year Treasury yields upward this morning.

Today's newsletter, edited by Javier E. David and copy edited by Katie Lewis, is 518 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: The gender pay gap is shrinking

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.

2. FedNow is live

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

America now has two instant payment systems. FedNow — operated by the Federal Reserve — went live this morning. It runs in parallel to RTP, the 5-year-old real-time payments system operated by The Clearing House.

Why it matters: It's not yet obvious that two is better than one, especially given that the two systems are not interoperable, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes.

  • The Fed is touting FedNow as offering the instant, round-the-clock ability to issue a paycheck or pay an invoice.

By the numbers: So far, 35 banks have signed up as early adopters of FedNow, including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, but notably not including Citigroup or Bank of America. That number is lower than the Fed's stated 57 early adopters in June.

  • The U.S. Treasury is also signed up as an early adopter of FedNow.
  • Some 353 banks and credit unions have signed up for RTP.
  • In order to use either service, both the sending and the receiving bank need to be signed up for the system.

The bottom line: It's still likely to be years before most people use instant payments on a daily basis, as they do in countries like the U.K., India and Brazil. The government isn't forcing banks to sign up for either of the two systems, and for the time being, there still isn't a strong business case for banks to do so.

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