Gender Gap Narrows for Living Wage Jobs, Reports Ludwig Institute

Career Climbers / 28th November 2023

While the overall availability of living-wage jobs remained virtually unchanged, women in the workforce gained ground against their male counterparts in October, according to the monthly True Rate of Unemployment (TRU) report by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP).

The overall TRU — a measure of the “functionally unemployed,” defined as the jobless plus those seeking, but unable to find, full-time employment paying above the poverty line — improved slightly, from 22.8% to 22.7%. While most demographic groups saw similar negligible changes, women workers saw a notable improvement: the female TRU decreased 0.6 percentage points, improving from 27.4% to 26.8%. This, coupled with the male TRU increasing by 0.5 percentage points (from 18.5% to 19%), has narrowed the gender gap to 7.8 percentage points, compared to 8.9 percentage points in September.

This is the second lowest TRU for women dating back to 1995 (the earliest LISEP has records), surpassed only by the 26.4% TRU posted in June of this year. The female TRU has been at or near its lowest level since the start of 2022, with the ten lowest values ever recorded all occurring during that time.

“An improvement in the status of women workers is welcome news, and it is encouraging to see that steady progress has been made in just this past year,” said LISEP Chairman Gene Ludwig. “But I think we all can agree that a functional unemployment rate of 26.8% for women is too high; a gender gap of nearly 8% is too large. Considering that most family households require two earners just to make ends meet, the continued reduction of barriers to women in the workforce should be a top priority for policymakers.”

Functional unemployment for the three racial and ethnic demographic groups in the LISEP report increased slightly, with the TRU for Black workers increasing by 0.1 percentage points (from 25.1% to 25.2%); 0.3 percentage points for Hispanic workers (26.0% to 26.3%), and 0.1 percentage point for White workers (21.5 to 21.6%).

“Middle- and working-class earners are basically holding their own, but holding the status quo is not good enough,” Ludwig said. “We are still seeing too many families struggling to get by. We can appreciate progress where we see it, but we still must recognize that we can do better.”

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