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Women in the Labor Force in 2008

  • Of the 121 million women age 16 years and over in the U.S., 72 million, or 59.5 percent, were labor force participants—working or looking for work.

  • Women comprised 46.5 percent of the total U.S. labor force.

  • Women are projected to account for 49 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2006 and 2016.

  • A record 68 million women were employed in the U.S.--75 percent of employed women worked on full-time jobs, while 25 percent worked on a part-time basis.

  • The largest percentage of employed women (39.5 percent) worked in management, professional, and related occupations; 33.1 percent worked in sales and office occupations; 20.6 percent in service occupations; 5.9 percent in production, transportation, and material moving occupations; and 0.9 percent in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.

  • The largest percentage of employed Asian and white women (46.0 percent and 40.6 percent, respectively) worked in management, professional, and related occupations. The largest percentage of employed black women was split among management, professional, and related occupations at 31.3 percent and sales and office occupations at 31.9 percent. Hispanic women showed their strongest attachment to sales and office occupations at 32.9 percent.

  • The unemployment rate for all women was 5.4 percent and for men it was 6.1 percent. Among female race/ethnic groups, Asian women continue to display the lowest unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. For white women, it was 4.9 percent; Hispanic women, 7.7 percent; and black women, 8.9 percent.

  • The median weekly earnings of women who were full-time wage and salary workers were $638, or 80 percent of men’s $798. When comparing the median weekly earnings of persons aged 16 to 24, young women earned 91 percent of what young men earned ($420 and $461, respectively).
  • The ten occupations with the highest median weekly earnings among women who were full-time wage and salary workers were--
  1. Pharmacists, $1,647
  2. Chief executives, $1,603
  3. Lawyers, $1,509
  4. Computer software engineers, $1,351
  5. Computer and information systems managers, $1,260
  6. Physicians and surgeons, $1,230
  7. Management analysts, $1,139
  8. Human resource managers, $1,137
  9. Speech-language pathologists, $1,124
  10. Computer scientists and systems analysts, $1,082
  • Women accounted for 50.8 percent of all workers in the high-paying management, professional, and related occupations. They outnumbered men in such occupations as registered nurses, 91.7 percent; elementary and middle school teachers, 81.2 percent and insurance underwriters, 80.3 percent; medical and health services managers, 69.4 percent; social and community service managers, 68.1 percent; human resource managers, 66.3 percent; education administrators, 65.1 percent; advertising and promotion managers, 62 percent; accountants and auditors, 61.1 percent; public relations managers, 60.3 percent; budget analysts, 57.1 percent; financial managers, 54.8 percent; and medical scientists, 52.3 percent.

  • Of persons aged 25 years and older, 28.7 percent of women and 30.4 percent of men had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher; 31.2 percent of women and 31.1 percent of men had completed only high school, no college.

  • The higher a person’s educational attainment, the more likely they will be a labor force participant (working or looking for work) and the less likely they will be unemployed.
  • For women age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma, 33 percent were labor force participants; high school diploma, no college, 54 percent; some college, but no degree, 66 percent; associate degree, 71 percent; and bachelor’s degree or higher, 73 percent.

For women age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma, their unemployment rate was 9.4 percent; high school diploma, no college, 5.3 percent; some college, but no degree, 4.5 percent; associate degree, 3.7 percent; and bachelor’s degree or higher, 2.7 percent.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, 2008 Annual Averages and the Monthly Labor Review, November 2007.