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US Employment History: More Women Leaving the Workforce than Men

Updated on October 10, 2014

Decline in Female Participation In the US Workforce Year to Date

The percentage of available females in the US civilian workforce but not working has increased. The percentage of women in the workforce has decreased.
The percentage of available females in the US civilian workforce but not working has increased. The percentage of women in the workforce has decreased. | Source

HubPages Question in May 2012:

Are Men Losing Their Jobs to Women Who Will Work for Less?

Short answer:

  • No. As of May 2012, more women than men lost jobs overall in 2012.
  • A larger percentage of women available for work in the US but NOT working increased from 2011 to 2012, as shown in the graph above.
  • Men also suffered a net loss in jobs, but much fewer than half that for women and a larger proportion of men were lost to retirement, death, military service, and incarceration than women.
  • Generally from January - April 2012, more women were leaving the US workforce by layoff, quitting, or not entering the workforce.
  • Equal pay acts were signed into law in 1963 and 2009. Whether they are enforced across the USA is in question.

Workers Lost From US Workforce by Gender, January - April 2012


Fewer Women Were Working January - May 2012

Despite the ongoing debate concerning gender equality and equal pay in the workforce being an unmet goal, and despite debate that men - allegedly most often white men - lost their jobs to women in the 2010s because women earn less money per hour for the same jobs, Bureau of Labor Statistics ( showed otherwise in Quarters 1 and 2 of 2012.

Most markedly in March and April 2012, BLS statistics showed a decrease of women in the workplace. This included all women over the age of 16 that were not institutionalized in some way or serving in the US military branches.

Moreover,the rate of females in the American civilian workplace reached a historical peak in April 2000 at 60.3% and declined to 56.7% of females in both January and April 2012. According to the BLS, this is the lowest rate of available females to work since 1993, twenty years previously. Whatever the reasons may be - and there are several - women left the workforce from 2000 - 2012 under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama Administrations, a higher percentage during the Obama Administration.

What the statistical set does include is the growing number of middle aged women ages 50 - 64 that are laid off and cannot find additional employment. Middle aged men of all races were laid off more often than younger men in American during the 2000s and 2010s as well, but since women have heretofore outlived men on average by nearly a decade, this provides a greater risk of older-female unemployment over older-male unemployment.However, health statistics show in the 2010s that men are catching up to women in the length of their lifespans (

If these two trends continue, America will see an increase of men (and an increase in middle aged men) in the workforce and a decrease of women (and a decrease in middle aged women) in the workforce through 2020.

Number of Women That Left the US Workforce

Number of Women Lost from Civilian Workforce
January 2012
Lowest Rate of Females in Workforce since 1993
February 2012
A historic but temporary high point in female employment.
March 2012
- 177,000
Women were lost from the workforce. Lowest Rate of Females in Workforce since 1993, same rate as January.
April 2012
- 147,000
Aadditional women wre lost from the workforce.
March and April 2012
- 164,000
Women that became 16 years old, left the US military, or were released from prison and not seeking employment
- 488,000


Statistically, if May 2012 shows at least 76,000 additional women dropping from the workforce, then the phenomenon of females in America leaving or failing to enter the civilian workforce will prove significant and an important trend in employment and social issues.

For example, the largest proportion of the poorest poor in America are women and children. This trend toward lesser employment can worsen that statistic. Homelessness among women may also be increased by this phenomenon, along with the related lack of healthcare and increase in illnesses, followed by shortening of lifespan.

The US Government successfully levied a WWII campaign to convince women to work outside the home as the men went to war. In the other direction during the first half of 2012, women left the workforce.

Big Change From 2009

Whether the trend toward men living longer and remaining in the workforce longer than same-aged (age cohort) women is difficult to predict.

In early September 2009, USA Today reported at the 9-month point in the Obama Administration, that women gained jobs faster than men in the American labor market:


'"Unemployment among men isn't going to last forever," says University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan. "People will move from construction and manufacturing to industries that are creating new jobs." Mulligan expects the portion of jobs held by women to peak slightly above 50% this year, then drop below half when the economy recovers and more men find work.' (reference:

This may be what we are seeing in the first four or five months 2012, the last year of the Obama Administration, if he is not reelected.

Men Lost Jobs During the Recession

During January - September 2009, American city and town governments, public schools, water authorities, and other local agencies cut 86,000 men from their payrolls during the recession, but they added 167,000 women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was explained by Stimulus Funding providing positions in traditionally female-dominant industries like education and healthcare. This did not continue in 2012.

Number of Jobs Gained Or Lost In 2009

Men lost jobs, but women gained Jobs.
Men lost jobs, but women gained Jobs. | Source

Were Male Or Female Dominant Jobs Available In May 2012?

Among 4.2 million job listings posted during the first week of May 2012, the following highest demand occupations were present, with male-dominant jobs in bold type. Twelve or over half of these job titles are in male-dominated occupations. Particularly, fewer women apply for the several engineering jobs than men.

In addition, the US already suffered far more women than men out of the workforce, with men gaining jobs from January through the end of April and women losing more jobs. This all indicates a trend toward men overall gaining jobs over women in May 2012.

  1. Physical Therapist
  2. Occupational Therapist
  3. Registered Nurse
  4. Truck Driver
  5. Physician
  6. Pharmacy Technician
  7. Customer Service Representative
  8. Project Manager
  9. Sales Associate
  10. School Teachers K-12
  11. Software Engineer
  12. Sales Representatives
  13. Event Specialist
  14. through 20. The engineers: Quality Engineer, Network Engineer, Systems Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Manufacturing Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Process Engineer


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Dr. Billy Kidd - You brought out good points. I agree that some entities purposely do NOT make jobs in order to hurt the Obama campaign, but hurt the unemployed more. They also kept screaming that the US Space Program was over, but it is clearly not. I also think that Romney has his own hidden agenda, but had not thought of a was as you described, but I will keep my eyes open. Thank you for posting.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      My heart really goes out to those who need work. Nothing about the new politics of "no" and the resultant political practice of non-job-creation in order to hurt Obama is fair. It also is not fair that state legislatures have introduced 1000 bills to limiit women's rights over the last 4 years. We are in a strange time: divided against each other. The best an independent person can do is not to hate the people who stop job creation and try to impose restrictions on women. That, by the way, is always the lead up to war. (Will Rommey do the Apoclypse fighting Iran? It's all been set up for him) So no matter what they say when Romney is elected, speak out against his holy war against Muslims. That's inevitable and we must stop it. It will be a good time to ask: What about jobs? Since that's the (false) idea Romney will be elected on. You'd think that job creation would be a priority for Congress, but they've smashed all the Obama bills that would have added small business. The tea party folks hate helping the little guy, They actually want help themselve for there supposed (white) entitlement, like free healthcare for themseles by not for others. I know what it is like to go a month on a box of oath meal and a box of pancakes mix, so don't cast me off as some Deomcratic pimp. These political parties are impotent becaue the do not inspire. For inspiration remember that you must push your self forward to discover what's for you in the next cycle of your life. Wanna talk more go to

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      This all sounds pretty depressing and unfair. Many women are single, have no families, and must support themselves.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Really interesting hub. I'm in the same boat as Uninvited, except I've been at home for the past 3 years. I've pretty much given up looking.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      The statistics in the first part of the year are interesting but may not be significant (I'm not a statistician) only because of being measured over such a short span of time. On the other hand, Mulligan's predictions are alarming.

      We're still in a recession (some say a depression), and when and if more jobs are available over the next year, I'm thinking they will go first to men, men of any age. Sex discrimination in hiring is as alive and well as ever. The boys in my mother's family during the Great Depression always got the meat at dinner, the girls got the broth. Not much has changed.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I hope you find something soon; it is a lot of work just to find work these days. And much success to you in your writing!

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Great hub. As a woman over 50 who has been looking for an office job since last April, I know how some feel. I am in Canada but it's not much different here. I am working towards it but I think I will have to become a full-time writer, working from home. I have gone for interviews with 3 temp agencies and I always do great on all the tests they give me, but one of the interviewers would barely look at me during the interview and I had to ask her how I did on the test.

      I am single, I have 10 years to go before I'm 65. If I do find another office job I will have to work until I'm 70...and maybe beyond.

      In the meantime, I writing more and looking for a part-time job (I'm thinking they might be easier to find)

      If I don't find something soon I may have to start withdrawing from my rrsp's.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Well, good for you all out there.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for this information on employment. I don't know where you're writing from, but in Oregon women make up half the class in our medical school.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      That's exactly what I think as well, incomeguru. Thanks for reading.

    • incomeguru profile image

      Oyewole Folarin 

      7 years ago from Lagos

      If more women are leaving the workforce, then the rate of poverty will be higher among women in the US. Well researched hub. Voted up.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      7 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Although I am in the UK, I found your hub of great interest. Great presentation and research. Voted up.


    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Smart Hub.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Deborah Books - Happily, those positions will continue to grow, right into the NASA-Private Sector Space Program to help people learn to move about and live on ships and eventually in colonies in lesser-than-earth gravity.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Kathleen - OMG. How blatant an attitude is that!?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Kebennett1 - thanks for reading. It will be interested to see where this trend goes and I am concerned about the middle aged men and women out of work, especially when they have no family.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      great read.. this is very interesting I had no idea.,

      I know so many women that are going to school to be

      Physical Therapist

      Occupational Therapist

      Registered Nurse

      that and computers jobs seem to be the most poplar

      Great hub

      voted up Debbie

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      My last couple of interviews before I decided I'd be just as well off staying home and trying my hand at writing fulltime, the interviewer might as well have said straight out - "I'm not hiring my mother!" You might be on to something.

    • Kebennett1 profile image


      7 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

      Thorough research. Written well. Like the graphs. Very good hub. Voted Up and interesting!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Yes it is interesting. I sense that the women leaving the workforce are the older women that are not old enough to retired, but "too old" to find more work.

    • Camille Harris profile image

      Camille Harris 

      7 years ago from SF Bay Area

      Interesting. Great graphics. I recently read that the unemployment rate among one group of women was actually declining: "Since December 2011, black women have knocked more than 3 percentage points off of their unemployment rate, going down from 13.9 percent to 10.8 percent. That drop is the largest for any demographic group, with the growth concentrated in education, health care, and the retail industry."

      Not declining at a large enough rate or among a large enough population of women to affect the overall increase in unemployment, but interesting nonetheless!


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