More people — especially women — wanted to work in May as the economic recovery booms along
- In May, more Americans were actively looking for work, especially women of color.
- That’s a good sign for recovery, but many women of color still didn’t get hired.
According to the latest data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, the labor force participation rate ticked up by 0.1 percentage point to 62.3% in May. That means that about 330,000 more people were working or actively looking for work than in April.
"Overall, we have a very tight labor market," Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider. "We see that job openings are near record highs. This is pulling workers back into the labor force. In general, having job opportunities out there encourages Americans to look for work."
The following chart shows how the labor force participation rate has changed since the start of 2020:
Last month, one group was joining the labor force in spades: Women. As the chart below shows, more women were working and actively looking for work in May. The not-seasonally adjusted labor force participation rate for women aged 20 and over crept up 0.3 percentage points to 58.2%.
That's a new and heartening development for the pandemic's economic recovery, which has often left women further behind than men. An analysis from the National Women's Law Center found that women made up 46.4% of job gains in May. The rise in labor force participation was especially driven by women of color, with a substantial amount of Black and Hispanic or Latina women entering the labor force.
"It was a nice milestone to see that Black labor force participation was at its highest level since before the pandemic," Zhao said. But there's a "a bit of a mixed picture there."
Even with those gains, there are still inequities baked in: While more women were looking for work, they weren't necessarily finding it.
For white women over 20, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 2.4% to 2.6%, meaning that 107,000 more white women were considered unemployed. At the same time, Black women saw their unemployment rate jump from 4.6% to 5.5%, meaning that 108,000 more Black women were unemployed — even as 132,000 Black women joined the labor force.
At the same time, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell for both white and Black men, even as their labor force participation rates went up.
So, while even more Black women were able and ready to work, many weren't hired. That comes even as the country sees near-record high job openings.
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