Black women and Latinas are joining the job market – but are they finding the jobs they’re searching for? | #JobsDay March 2024

| Mar 8, 2024

Today’s jobs report comes as we kick off Women’s History Month, so we’re going to look at where we are, how we got here and how to chart a path to the future women deserve.

Women overall gained 114,000 jobs in February and about 300,000 women 20 and older joined the labor force, increasing women’s labor force participation rate from 58.8 percent to 59.0 percent. Latinas and Black women saw especially large increases in labor force participation, from 60.7 percent to 61.5 percent for Latinas and from 62.9 percent to 63.4 percent for Black women, as well as gains in their employment-to-population ratios.

However, many workers who joined the labor force were not able to find jobs, leading to a sharp rise in women’s unemployment. Women 20 and older saw their highest unemployment rate in 2 years (3.5 percent), despite their increased labor force participation. Latinas saw a substantial increase in unemployment to 5.0 percent, their highest rate since late 2021. White women’s unemployment also increased to 3.2 percent while Black women’s declined to 4.4 percent. Men’s unemployment rate declined, though Black men’s unemployment increased, as did rates for Asian workers.

The fact that increases in women’s unemployment were driven by increased labor force participation means that unemployment went up because more women entered the labor force to look for jobs, not because they lost jobs. Nevertheless, it indicates we need to have more jobs available for unemployed workers. This is especially true for Black men and Asian workers; both groups saw declines in their employment to population ratios last month, meaning workers are losing jobs.

Thanks to new women job seekers, women’s share of the labor force just hit 47.2 percent – its highest point in 4 years. This increase in women in the labor force is indicative of crumbling barriers and much-needed independence for women – and it did not happen by accident. Instead, it is a testament to the policies that leaders, activists and advocates (including my colleagues at the National Partnership throughout our 50 year history) have pursued for decades – advances like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, access to education, access to birth control and abortion, and more.

But while we should celebrate the progress we have made, we still have a long way to go. Women are still more likely to work in lower-wage jobs and be shut out of higher-earning opportunities. Unemployment rates for Black women and Latinas are still substantially higher than those for white women. Large wage gaps for women of color persist year after year, with Latinas typically making just 52 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Native women 55 cents, Black women 66 cents and Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) women 80 cents. These inequities are the result of a labor market that is built on centuries of discrimination, devaluing women’s work and ignoring women’s unpaid caregiving.

The result is, despite today’s strong job market, the U.S. still lags behind other nations with better caregiving policies in women’s labor force participation, a gap that costs us more than $775 billion per year. This is a gap that could grow if we fail to adequately invest in caregiving supports like child care, paid leave and home – and community – based services. And the current and consistent attacks on abortion harm not the health of women, transgender and nonbinary people, but their freedom to seek the kinds of education, jobs and families they want, especially for women of color and women in low-wage jobs.

To truly make the labor market work for women, we need the caregiving investments in caregiving that President Biden called for in last night’s State of the Union. We need abortion access, equal pay and more. We are standing on the shoulders of generations of leaders who fought for progress and now it’s our time to make the change we need for the future. Women and their families cannot afford to keep trying to make it work on their own in an increasingly challenging environment – and the country can’t afford it either.

Read our full analysis of today’s Jobs Report on Twitter.

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