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Input Stories

Women’s Workforce Participation Is Behind Men’s—But Up Since 2020

Although women’s labor-force participation is steadily rebounding from the pandemic lows of 2020, it still lags behind that of men, according to Axios and data from the U.S. Labor Department.

The good news: Women’s workforce participation rate is at its highest since March 2020, said NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray. In the manufacturing sector, “women and men have both recouped about the same percentage of workers since the pandemic,” he added.

Lower numbers: However, in January of this year, women’s employment participation was 11% lower than men’s, according to the Labor Department, with men participating at 68% and women participating at 57%.

  • “Issues with schools and daycare centers kept women, who are typically primary caregivers to children, out of the workforce throughout the pandemic—and it’s still happening,” according to Axios.

The result: Lower workforce participation by women stymies economic recovery, as companies everywhere are struggling to find skilled workers.

What now? “Women are in a tough spot, as there’s still a shortage of child care workers and the possibility of school scheduling snafus with future variants.”

  • Compounding the problem, child care centers do not tend to pay well, and in the current labor market, they are having staffing difficulties, meaning they take on fewer children.

Manufacturers step up: Manufacturers are heeding the clarion call of workers for help with child care. See “WAFCO Seeks a Child Care Solution to the Labor Shortage” in this edition of Input and read the full story here

The last word: “While, according to last week’s jobs report, we’re pleased to see that women’s labor participation was the best since the pandemic began, there is still much more to be done,” said Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee.

  • “Men have now recouped most of their labor force losses since before the pandemic, but women still have over 1.8 million losses in the overall economy, reflecting the challenges of domestic and care responsibilities. As 47% of the overall labor force—but under a third of manufacturing workers— we need to grow the number of women in the sector. That’s why the MI is working with manufacturers to help them tap into the largest talent pool by supporting young women and girls interested in STEM, growing recruitment and retention practices and amplifying female role models in our industry.”
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