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Women leading increase in labor force participation rate

January 09, 2020

While the labor force participation rate of prime-age individuals (age 25 to 54) remains below its pre-recession level, it has been increasing since 2015. A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that college-educated women have made the largest contribution to this recovery.

Researchers found that the participation rate has increased 1.7 percentage points to 82.6 percent in 2019, corresponding to 3 million more prime-age individuals in the labor force than in 2015. However the gains were not evenly distributed across all workers.

The researchers divided prime-age individuals into four groups: men with less than a bachelor’s degree (non-college men), men with a bachelor’s degree (college men), women with less than a bachelor’s degree (non-college women), and women with a bachelor’s degree (college women). While the researchers found that all four groups experienced an increase in the labor force participation rate since 2015, prime-age men and women without a bachelor’s degree saw larger deteriorations in their labor force participation rates from 2008 to 2015 than their college-educated counterparts.

Among prime-age individuals, only college-educated women have seen their labor force participation rate fully recover to and exceed its pre-recession level. However, it still remains below the participation rates of both college-educated and non-college-educated men.

labor force, women