The “she-cession” is now turning into a “she-covery”: Employment among women is rising much faster than for men, reversing the trend from earlier in the pandemic.
The rising vaccination rate has pushed many schools to reopen and is powering the rebound in the leisure and hospitality sector. Women disproportionately work in those sectors, while many who don’t have felt compelled to withdraw from the labor force to provide childcare when other options weren’t available. At the same time, recent problems in construction, manufacturing, and support industries such as truck driving are disproportionately holding back the jobs recovery for men.
The result is that total female employment is now 4.3% below where it was in January 2020—not great, but ahead of male employment on a relative basis for the first time since the pandemic began. Since the start of the year, more than 1.2 million additional American women have found jobs, compared to just 350,000 men. In May, 90% of job gains went to women.
These are recent developments, driven by massive female employment gains over the past few months. But it’s likely that the trend will continue.
It’s probably not a coincidence that the vast majority that month’s payroll gains were driven by public and private schools, leisure and hospitality, personal care services, and daycares. By contrast, construction employment fell while manufacturing employment was essentially flat and truck driving ticked lower.
In general, male-dominated industries have had almost no employment growth since the start of the year, whereas female-dominated industries have had most of the gains.
Both male and female employment remain far below where they were before the pandemic, which means both genders have a lot of catching up to do before things can be truly back to normal. But it’s likely that women will continue to see disproportionate job gains as the service sector reopens. Employment in the major female-dominated industries is still about 11% below pre-pandemic levels, compared with a shortfall of about 3.5% in the male-dominated industries.
Moreover, the reopening of schools and daycares should relieve pressure on young mothers who have been disproportionately forced to withdraw from the labor force. That should be another tailwind for female employment in the year ahead.
Write to Matthew C. Klein at [email protected]