WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that employment rose by 517,000. The unemployment rate is 3.4% (seasonally adjusted), and the number of unemployed persons remains unchanged at 5.7 million. The unemployment rate for women remained overall unchanged at 3.6%, falling to 4.7% for black women and to 4.4% for Hispanic women.

Overall, labor force participation rose marginally by 0.1 percentage points to 62.4%. Women’s labor force participation rose marginally to 57%. Both are still below pre-pandemic levels.

Patrice Onwuka, director of the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) at Independent Women’s Forum, issued the following statement:

“Positively, the economy reportedly gained half a million jobs in January despite announcements of tens of thousands of layoffs in tech, retail, transportation, and housing industries. This jobs report may be an outlier as those layoffs take effect and the impact of interest rate hikes continues to filter through the economy. 

“The bigger problem is that participation in the workforce, especially by female workers, remains behind pre-pandemic levels and far below historical highs. In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, women’s labor force participation hovered between 60% and 61% — the highest level on record. At the end of 2019, women’s labor force participation recovered following the Great Recession to just under 58%. Today, it’s barely back up to 57%, leaving millions of women on the sidelines and missing out on valuable work experience and income. Some may be choosing to prioritize full-time parenting and caregiving. However, many others wish to work but on more flexible schedules that allow them to manage other responsibilities.

“The rapid expansion of female freelancers during the pandemic underscores that flexible work is key to tapping into the skills, creativity, and knowledge that women bring to bear. Unfortunately, policymakers and regulators in state capitols and in the nation’s capitol are busy undermining freelancing and flexible work. Recent crackdowns on independent contracting and burdensome regulations on small businesses coming from the Biden Department of Labor will hamper women’s progress in the workforce by putting desired flexible work out of reach.”

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Independent Women’s Forum’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) aims to educate the public about how government policies impact people’s opportunities for economic development and upward mobility.