Women waiting tables, working retail account for most female labor gains

Nearly 60 percent of the increase in employment for women in recent years was in jobs that pay $10 an hour or less

By Katie McDonough
Published September 19, 2013 1:25PM (EDT)
  (John Minchillo)
(John Minchillo)

Recent unemployment data suggests women have been making serious gains in the labor market. While male unemployment continues to hover around 7.1 percent, the August jobless rate for women 20 years and older was 6.3 percent, down from 7.3 percent in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But as Bloomberg notes, most of those gains are focused in low-paying and part-time industries like food service and in-home healthcare, jobs that often lack health insurance and pay very little. Nearly 60 percent of the growth was in jobs that pay less than $10 an hour, according to an analysis of the labor statistics conducted by the National Women's Law Center.

Women have lost close to 500,000 public-sector jobs since the summer of 2009. Men, comparatively, lost 290,000 such jobs.

Women have taken restaurant and retail jobs instead as teaching and other public-sector career positions that have disappeared, Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the NWLC told Bloomberg.

“They are taking jobs as baristas in Starbucks and other jobs that used to go to people without college degrees,” Entmacher said. “It’s an anecdote but it’s also a fact.”

Women's advancements in education may help to reverse the trend, experts say. Women accounted for 52 percent of college graduates in 2012, and have been gradually growing that number each year since 2005.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Economy Gender Labor Unemployment Women