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Women’s Employment Update: Good Signs in May, but More Progress Needed

Today’s release of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs data for May brought familiar news: 175,000 jobs were added to the economy and the overall unemployment rate held pretty steady, creeping up a smidge to 7.6 percent. Women gained almost half of last month’s jobs (82,000 jobs) and adult women’s unemployment rate fell to 6.5 percent in May – the lowest level since January 2009.

While these job gains are welcome, don’t pour the champagne just yet – these kinds of numbers aren’t enough to jumpstart the recovery for the millions of Americans who are unemployed – or the new workers graduating this month.

Here are some numbers from today’s NWLC analysis:

  • 2022: As I mentioned above, 175,000 jobs added last month – that’s pretty close to the average monthly gain over the last six months. But, at this pace, it will take until 2022 to close the jobs gap, according to estimates by the Hamilton Project. They define the “jobs gap” as the number of jobs the U.S. needs to add to return to pre-recession employment levels when you account for people who are currently unemployed, as well as those who will join the economy as the population grows. So while 175,000 is pretty good, we’re going to need to add a lot more jobs each month to speed up the recovery – nine years is too long to wait for a full recovery.
  • 6.5: Adult women’s unemployment rate is down slightly again this month – marking the lowest level we’ve seen since January 2009. African-American adult women and single moms also saw their unemployment rates fall this month, while Hispanic women saw their rate rise slightly. However, all of these groups of women still have unemployment rates much higher than when the recession began in December 2007.
  • 91,400: More than half of the job growth last month was concentrated in a few areas. 91,400 jobs added in May were in just three sectors – retail trade (+27,700), temporary help services (+25,600), and food service and drinking places (+38,100). These sectors represent some of the lowest-wage sectors. The disproportionate growth in low-wage sectors is troubling.

These are just a few of the numbers that were released today, but the month showed generally good news. However, we have a lot more progress to make before we can begin to celebrate. We need more jobs to be created each month and we need those jobs to pay livable wages. Millions of Americans unable to find work or only able to find low-wage or part-time jobs can’t wait until 2022 for a full recovery.

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