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Women's Employment Update: Women gain jobs in February but long-term unemployment rises

February’s jobs numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were an improvement over last month’s numbers: women gained more than half of the 175,000 jobs added to the economy in February after losing jobs in January. Otherwise the story is very familiar—the unemployment rate for women was unchanged at 5.9 percent and the long-term unemployment rate increased. Here’s a deeper dive into the numbers:

Women gained the majority of the jobs in February:

  • Of the 175,000 jobs added in February, women added 99,000 jobs while men added 76,000 jobs.
  • Women’s largest job gains were in professional and business services (which includes the temporary help sector) (+55,000), private education and health services (+24,000), and leisure and hospitality (+14,000). Women also gained 11,000 public sector jobs, which makes up for some, but not all, of the 15,000 public sector jobs women lost in January (data were revised).
  • Men’s largest job gains were in professional and business services (+24,000), wholesale trade (+16,400), and construction (+13,000).
  • Women’s largest losses were in retail (-10,000) while men’s were in information (-12,000).

Long-term unemployment for women increased in February:

  • More than 3.8 million people have been looking for work for six months or more.
  • The share of unemployed adult women (ages 20 and older) who had been searching for a job for six months or more increased in February to 37.7 percent from 34.8 percent in January. The share for adult men ticked up slightly to 36.7 percent in February from 36.5 percent in January.
  • Because Congress let federal long-term unemployment benefits expire at the end of 2013, two million workers have been cut off from benefits according to the National Employment Law Project [PDF]. These numbers emphasize why Congress votes to renew emergency unemployment benefits as soon as possible.

In February the economy passed a benchmark of sorts. During the recession (December 2007-June 2009) the economy lost 7.4 million jobs. And in February 2014 private sector job gains during the recovery topped 7.4 million for the first time. So why aren’t we back to where we were before the recession? Blame government cuts. Since June 2009 the public sector has lost 725,000 jobs.  On top of that, the population continues to grow and taking that into account, the Hamilton Project estimates that if the economy adds an average of 175,000 jobs a month it will take until 2020 to reach pre-recession employment levels. So we passed one benchmark but have a long way to go. 

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