Black women’s labor force participation continues to decline| #JobsDay October 2023

by | Oct 6, 2023 | Fair Pay

While today’s jobs data indicate a strong economy, there are some notable trends behind the headlines that are important to women.

First, the labor force participation rate for Black women and men 20 and older peaked during the spring at 63.9 percent for Black women and 70.5 percent for Black men. But over the last six months these numbers have fallen, with Black women’s participation decreasing to 62.6 percent in September while Black men’s declining to 68.6 percent. What’s especially troubling is that these figures differ from general trends; the labor force participation rates for men and women overall have been steady or increasing during this time.

As National Partnership for Women & Families’ President Jocelyn Frye has written recently, “Black women continue to juggle caregiving and work responsibilities with too little support. The world has changed [since the pandemic began and], the way women live and work has changed, and yet, our economic policies haven’t caught up. It is past time for policymakers to prioritize solutions that advance the economic well-being and employment opportunities of Black women.” These latest data underscore the urgency of centering Black women and Black communities in our economic policymaking.

These latest data underscore the urgency of centering Black women and Black communities in our economic policymaking.

Also of note in this jobs report is the impact of recent and ongoing strikes. While some strikes have reached a deal, including the writers’ strike and that of my own former union, the Graduate Employees Union at the University of Michigan, many strikes are ongoing. Actors continue to strike for fair pay and job protections, evident in the fact that the motion picture industry is down more than 45,000 jobs since May, and auto workers and health care workers have also walked off the job in the last few weeks. National Partnership research reveals that union membership is a key factor in closing the wage gap and that this bump is especially large for Latina workers, for whom unions provide a wage bump of 36 percent.

Lastly, the child care sector continues to struggle. While the economy overall is up more than 4.5 million jobs since before COVID started, the child care sector has failed to fully recover to its February 2020 level – and now it faces additional headwinds. Congress didn’t act to extend essential child care funding that expired at the end of September, despite the fact that child care is critical to women’s labor force participation. As we look ahead in the coming months, we can anticipate seeing the impacts of this reduced funding, which will harm families who need child care, as well as the economy overall as parents may be forced to drop out of the labor market if they can’t find the care they need for their children.

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

Click to open the full tweet thread in a new window.