Last week’s data on jobs showed us a solid but slowing labor market. Private employers added 113,000 jobs in October, according to the ADP National Employment Report, and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. non-farm payrolls grew by 150,000.
And the super-sized wage gains that defined the labor market over the past 18 months also have slowed dramatically. People who have been on the same job for at least 12 months averaged a 5.7 percent year-over-year pay increase in October, according to ADP data, the slowest pace of growth in two years.
This slowdown is mostly good news, what we see as a return to normalcy. But at the same time, a worrisome trend is developing.
Over the summer, women in their prime working years recorded a record-high labor force participation rate of nearly 78 percent. But that activity has been slipping ever since.
And women are working 1.7 hours less a week than they did before the pandemic. Surprisingly, women contributed fewer hours to work last month than they did when the pandemic was still raging in October 2020.
Writing in Barron’s last week, my colleague Mary Hayes and I showed that women have struggled to make up economic ground as they’ve returned to the labor market. The hard-won gains that they’ve made in recent years could evaporate as the job market slows.