Women in the Workforce

Sep 3, 2009 1:29pm

USA Today‘s story today on the number of women in the workforce is a fine piece that underscores an important social trend. But there is, just the same, another way to do the math.

The federal government has two surveys on employment; while the one the paper uses tells its story best, it provides the less complete count of total jobs in this country.

Both surveys are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The first is its establishment survey – essentially a payroll survey conducted among employers. As of June (the data the newspaper used) it counted 131,735,000 jobs, with 65,650,000 held by women. That’s 49.83 percent, as the paper reported. (Going to the second decimal is perhaps overly precise for what is, after all, an estimate.)

The other is the BLS’ household survey. It counts more jobs because it includes non-payroll work, including self-employment, agricultural work, private household work and the like. This survey counted 140,196,000 jobs in June, with 66,419,000 held by women. That’s 47.4 percent.

Including non-payroll jobs, then, women are not quite as “on the verge” of constituting a majority of American workers as USAT suggests – they’re 3.8 million jobs away per the household survey, as opposed to about 350,000 jobs away per the establishment survey.

Still, however you count it, as participants in the workforce, women surely have come a long way.

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