The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showed that for the first time since the pandemic began, the number of women in the labor force exceeds pre-pandemic numbers: there are now 10,000 more women ages 20 and over in the labor force than in February 2020. Meanwhile, there are over 1.4 million more men in the labor force now than in February 2020. This means it took women three years to return to their pre-pandemic labor force size. By comparison, men returned to their pre-pandemic labor force size in less than two years. While the number of women in the labor force now exceeds the number immediately before the pandemic, women’s labor force participation rate remains lower, because the population has grown over the last three years. Specifically, women’s labor force participation was 58.5% in February, up from 58.3% in January, but still below their pre-pandemic labor force participation rate of 59.3% in February 2020.
The data also showed the economy added 311,000 jobs in February, 153,000 of which (49.2%) were women’s jobs. This different measure indicates that after February’s job gains, women now hold over 1.1 million more net jobs than in February 2020; by comparison, men hold over 1.8 million more net jobs now than in February 2020. By this different measure, from a separate data source, women’s net jobs reached pre-pandemic levels in August 2022, while men’s net jobs reached pre-pandemic levels in March 2022.