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Working 9 to 5: Women make up more of the workforce

A look at women in the workforce by sector

“Tumble out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition…”  —Dolly Parton

The song and the movie 9 to 5 were released in 1980, back when women made up only 41% of employed workers in the U.S.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has continued to collect the data and recently announced that women have broken through the 50/50 threshold in the U.S. workforce: That is, more women are employed than men. As the FRED graph above shows, this is the second time in U.S. history this threshold has been crossed. (Note that the December 2019 number is 50.0% in this graph, but a more exact value is 50.04%.)

FRED has more-specific data to help illuminate this event. To begin with, there have been more employed women than employed men in the private service-providing industry since 1985; and this share has grown over time. In the goods-producing industry, the percentage of women peaked at the end of 1991, at 27.8%.

The trends within the service-providing industry show a shifting landscape:

  • The ratio of women employees to all employees has recently increased in professional & business services and in leisure & hospitality.
  • It has remained effectively constant in education & health services and in trade, transportation & utilities.
  • And it has decreased in financial activities and information over the past 20 years or so.

Thus, it looks like the employment share of women has increased or at least persisted in sectors where women have achieved a strong presence. But it doesn’t seem like women are increasing their share in every given sector. Economists call this the composition effect. In this case, one single figure—or ratio—doesn’t tell the whole story: For example, Dolly Parton’s movie character, when heading to her job in professional & business services, is still entering a workplace where less than half of her coworkers are women.

How these graphs were created: All the data series are part of Table B-5. Employment of women on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, Seasonally adjusted. For the first graph: Select “Total nonfarm,” click “Add to Graph,” open the “Format” tab, select “Add Line” and “Create user-defined line,” then enter 50 as the “value start/end.” The two other graphs are similar, but select “Goods producing” and “Private service-producing” and then the six different industries within the private service-providing sector. Adjust line colors and shapes in the “Format” tab so that the trends across individual industries are easier to see.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CES0000000039, CES0600000039, CES0800000039, CES4000000039, CES5000000039, CES5500000039, CES6000000039, CES6500000039, CES7000000039

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