Women in the Workforce: Is Wage Stagnation Catching Up to Them Too?

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Released: April 2011 • Economic Analysis

Related Topics: Employment & Wages

Authors:

  • Adam LooneySenior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
  • Michael GreenstoneFormer Director, The Hamilton Project; 3M Professor of Environmental Economics, MIT
 
 

Introduction

March employment numbers signaled modest improvement in the job market. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.8 percent and payroll employment increased by 216,000 jobs.

In last month’s posting, The Hamilton Project continued its examination of long-term labor market trends, focusing on earning trends for men over the last four decades. The findings were stark: inflation-adjusted earnings for the median male worker were lower in 2009 than they were in the early 1970s. This decline in earnings was more pronounced when taking into account falling labor force participation among men during that period. This erosion in wages likely reflects both reduced job market opportunities as well as an increased desire for leisure by men — although the evidence suggests the former plays a larger role.

The plight of the median male worker in the United States is significant, but it also raises another key question that we will address in this month’s posting: what has happened to the earnings of women?

In addition, we will continue our look at America’s “job gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while also absorbing the 125,000 people who enter the labor force each month.


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