The recent jobs report confirmed two wins and one major milestone for women in this strong economy.

  1. Nearly all (95 percent) of the net jobs added in December went to women.

  2. Women now outnumber men on U.S. payrolls, for only the second time in history.

Last month, nonfarm payroll jobs rose by 145,000 in the last month of 2019 leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 3.5 percent.

Three industry categories made notable job gains and it happens that these are industries dominated by women: 

  1. Retail trade added 41,000 jobs. Think of jobs in clothing and accessories stores to building material and garden supply stores. Overall, 48 percent of retail workers are women but that rising to 76 percent for clothing stores.

  2. Health care added 28,000 jobs. In 2019, health care added nearly 400,000 jobs compared to 350,000 in 2018 making this industry a great place for women. 

  3. Leisure and hospitality added 40,000 jobs. Over half (52 percent) of leisure and hospitality workers are women. They make up 75 percent of hospital workers and 79 percent of other health services professionals.

This is not the first time in our history that women outnumbered men in jobs. In 2009, during the Great Recession, waves of men were laid off leaving more women in jobs. 

This time, women are not gaining at the expense of men but because they are joinging fast-growing industries. There are two big drivers for why these industries are doing so well: a strong economy and an aging population. 

As the economy booms and job growth continues to rise, American workers enjoy better-paying jobs –or can find them– and have more money to spend. They are spending on clothing and shoes, but also purchasing homes and buying big-ticket items like washing machines and furniture. 

American families also have more discretionary income to spend on vacations and dining out. Increased demand from customers is pushing stores and restaurants to hire more staff and offer higher wages and benefits to compete for scare workers. With women dominating jobs in many retail and hospitality/leisure categories, they are benefitting.

The aging Baby Boomer generation is placing increasing demands on our health care system to care for one of the biggest generations in history. This need is driving up the demand for doctors, nurses, aids, health professionals, and caregivers. This is a great opportunity for women, many of whom are drawn to careers in health care.

Women are not just working but winning in today’s economy. We need policies that ensure they can continue to secure the woking opportunities they desire.