#JobsReport: Gains for Women Are Too Often Temporary – Literally.

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the most recent employment numbers for October. While the larger employment picture was generally the same as last month, and includes positive job growth, the picture for women is a little more nuanced.
The economy overall gained about 161,000 jobs last month and about half of those were gains made by women.
The unemployment rate for women in general remained about the same at 4.3 percent, and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Latinas dropped from 6.3 percent in September to 5.5 in October. Still, disparities in the unemployment rate persist for many groups of women.

  • Black women (7.1 percent) had almost double the rate of unemployment of white women (3.8 percent) in October. Despite the drop from September, Latinas still had higher unemployment rates (5.5 percent) than white women (3.8 percent) in October.
  • In October, single moms (6.1 percent) remained twice as likely to be unemployed than married women and men (3.0 percent).
  • Women with disabilities (12.1 percent) were almost three times as likely to be unemployed as women without disabilities (4.4 percent) in October. The unemployment rate for women with disabilities increased from September.

The private sector added 142,000 new jobs last month and more than half of those gains were made by women. However, women are still overwhelmingly represented in the low-wage workforce, and the biggest gains for women in the private sector were in the professional and business services sector which includes temporary help services.
The temporary workforce is overwhelmingly young, black, female, and paid less than those hired directly.   
BLS does not collect specific information on temporary workers so understanding how the temporary workforce is used within the U.S. economy, or the characteristics and experiences of those within the temporary workforce, can be difficult. Still, we know that since the recession use of temporary help services climbed to an all-time high. We know that the temporary workforce makes up about 80 percent of the employment services industry, and we know that those within the employment services industry are more likely to be black, more likely to be young (26-35), and more likely to be women. They are also more likely than people in other industries to hold bachelor’s degrees.
While temporary work offers companies flexibility in hiring (and firing), scheduling, and pay, the flip side for workers is lower pay than in similar direct hire positions, sometimes as much as 78 percent less. Lack of employer-sponsored health insurance benefits or paid sick time leaves temporary workers vulnerable to high health care related debt and working while sick. Most temporary positions lack parental leave and have unpredictable schedules. For women in these positions who are mothers, many of whom are primary breadwinners for their families, meeting work and family obligations can seem nearly impossible.
We need to do more to improve women’s standing in the U.S. economy.
The sustained job growth our economy has seen since the end of the recession has been good for women overall, but there is still more to do. Given that women, and women of color especially, are disproportionately represented in the low-wage workforce, and that women still have to contend with a wage gap that results in lifetime losses ranging from about $400,000 for all women to $1,000,000 for Latinas – there’s still more to do in making sure the kinds of jobs women gain in our economy can support their and their families success.