Monday, August 9, 2010

Labor Force Loses Half a Million Women in last 3 Months

I discovered something disconcerting in poking around the Bureau of Labor Statistics website this morning.  Between April and July of this year, according to BLS stats, over 1% of the women in the labor force have left it (red oval in graph above).  This is larger than the fall in the female "labor force participation rate" last year as a result of the great recession (blue circle), and so far there is no sign of the fall slowing down.

Labor force participation is defined as the fraction of women who are either employed or looking for work.  I am looking specifically at women aged 25-54 (ie who would not normally be either in college or retired).  The exact numbers are as follows: at the peak before the recession really began to bite, in April 2009, 76.0 percent of women of this age range were in the labor force.  By December, this had fallen to a low of 75.2% (a drop of 0.8/76 = 1.05%).  It then recovered to 75.7% in April 2009, but has now fallen again to 74.8% (a drop of 0.9/75.7 = 1.19%) in just three months.

I started out noting that last week's BLS report showed another drop in the employment/population ratio (eg see Calculated Risk).  I wanted to know how this was affecting uneducated men, so I updated the graph from this post, showing seasonally adjusted employment/population ratios

This seemed rather confusing and unclear, so I looked just at the overall male E/P ratio, aged 25-54:

This isn't declining rapidly, more stagnating.  So then I looked at the same ratio for women, to see if there was where the fall in the overall ratio was coming from:

This has dropped by around 1% since the beginning of 2010!  Much more than the male ratio.  Is this because more women are unemployed?

Female unemployment is high, but declining slightly in 2010.  Similarly male unemployment is high and not dropping further in 2010, but not increasing either:

So if the employment ratio for women is dropping, but there are not more women unemployed, they must be leaving the labor force altogether.  Sure enough:

That's quite the cliff dive in the last few months!  Male labor force participation is also dropping in the last few months, but not as much:

Just focussing in on the female ratio since 2004, this graph shows the drop in 2009, and the even larger drop that's been happening in the last few months:

That's more than half a million women who have left the labor force in three months:

The great recession was popularly known as a mancession for a while, because it initially disproportionately affected men.  However, it seems that the pain is now catching up with women.


Anonymous said...

Men in Manufacturing and construction last year

Women in retail, hotels, offices, in general service industries.

So services are slowing down as people who had had good construction jobs stop popping into restaurants, hotels, etc.

For a guess maybe it's right. I bet stats would show if it so.

Gary said...

Any chance more women were doing those temporary census jobs that just ended?

Stuart Staniford said...

Interesting point Gary - but I would have thought such women would promptly file for unemployment, not leave the labor force altogether?