Unemployment Rates for Women

Thu, 03 Jul 2008 14:03:24 +0000

The top line numbers in today's Employment Situation news release from the BLS showed net job losses in the establishment survey (-62,000), making for a total of 438,000 net jobs (0.32%) lost since the December peak, and the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.5 percent.

With more bad news, we are likely to hear news reports about the unequal burden of the labor market contraction. I was curious in particular to see how female heads of household were faring. The BLS reports their unemployment rate on a seasonally unadjusted basis, so the following chart shows 40 years of annual data, measured in June of each year, for all persons (in the civilian noninstitutionalized population) 16 and over, all women 16 and over, and all female heads of household:

A few features of the chart stand out:

First, prior to 1980, the unemployment rate for women was always a percentage point or more higher than that for the whole population. Since 1980, it has averaged only 0.2 percentage points higher.

Second, in the few years before 1975, the unemployment rate for female heads of household was reliably below the unemployment rate for all women. Since then, it has averaged nearly two percentage points higher.

Third, this gap narrowed to about 1.5 percentage points between 1999 and 2001. It has since averaged over 2.2 percentage points and has ticked up since last June.