Closing The Gap

There are now more women working in the US than men—and these cultural shifts are part of the reason why

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As the U.S. economy continues to see consistent job gains, women are now outnumbering men in the U.S. workforce for the first time since 2010, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Currently, women make up 50.04% of payroll jobs in the U.S., signaling that women are benefiting more than men from today's tight labor market.

One reason, Julia Pollak, labor economist at jobs marketplace ZipRecruiter tells CNBC Make It: In 2019, "female-dominated industries soared, while male-dominated industries plummeted."

"The economy created exactly 10 times as many jobs in the services sector than in the goods-producing sector in 2019," she explains. "So, it was a very weak year for male-dominated manufacturing, oil and gas industries and a very strong year for female-dominated industries such as health care and education."

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According to the Economic Policy Institute, men make up 77% of employment in construction and manufacturing sectors, while women make up 77% of employment in education and healthcare sectors. When looking at the growth rate of these industries, construction and manufacturing added 356,000 jobs to the economy between 2018 and 2019. Meanwhile, education and healthcare added 603,000 jobs to the economy during the same time period.

Economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics credit the decline of manufacturing jobs to several factors, including trade war issues with China and a shift in skills needed, putting more men who had once been qualified enough to work in the industry out of work. "Between 2000 and 2017, as employment rates declined in the manufacturing sector, college-educated men saw their annual work hours reduced by 7.4%, compared with a 0.7% reduction for college-educated women," the BLS reports.

Also, with women outnumbering men at all levels of post-secondary education, many male-dominated industries are now starting to see an increase of women entering the field.

For instance, women now make up 13.8% of mining and logging jobs, which is up from 12.6% a year ago, reports Bloomberg. And with a tight labor market that includes more employers being hungry for talent, Pollak says many industries are widening their net and creating flexible opportunities that allow women who left the workforce for motherhood to re-enter.

"Whenever you have these economic shifts, they also tend to cause cultural shifts too," she adds. So in addition to seeing more women entering the workforce, Pollak says that the latest jobs report could also point to more men being willing to stay at home.

According to data from Pew Research Center, the number of stay-at-home dads between 1989 and 2016 had almost doubled from 4% to 7%. Meanwhile, the number of stay-at-home moms remained almost unchanged, with a slight decrease from 28% in 1989 to 27% in 2016.

"We're noticing that it's increasingly becoming cool to be a stay-at-home dad," she says, "which is allowing women, in some cases, to go to work."

Though the tight labor market is showing signs of continued opportunity for women, Pollak points out that not everyone is being positively impacted by the economy.

"Despite how tight the labor market is and how exciting the outcomes are, there are still some disappointing parts, including a stubbornly high number of discouraged workers and long-time unemployed workers," she says. "These people being left behind are more likely to be men than women because they have a higher chance of having been incarcerated and a higher chance of being affected by the opioid crisis."

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