The monthly jobs report for March is out today, with a disappointing news on job growth, despite unemployment going down slightly.
Republicans this morning seized on one number in particular: More women stopped looking for work in March than in previous months, while the number of employed women decreased.
“For far too long women have been left behind in Obama’s job market,” Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day said in a statement.
But economists say the numbers pertaining specifically to women in the workforce might not be as bad as they seem, and we asked an economist for a quick breakdown of the overall jobs news:
• Unemployment reached a new three-year low, at 8.2 percent.
• About 120,000 jobs were created in March, which is half the number of jobs added in February, and 80,000 less than projected.
• Unemployment isn’t down because of an uptick in job creation. Instead, 164,000 people left the work force in March and are no longer looking for work — something that’s led to a reduced unemployment rate in the downturn before.
• Most of those who stopped looking for work were women. But, that’s not necessarily bad news. Women have what economists describe as a weaker attachment to the workforce than men, owing to child-bearing, child-rearing, and tradition. Many women leave the labor force — either temporarily or permanently — after having kids, and are much more likely than men to to leave the labor force to take care of their families.
• We can make assumptions, but the new jobs stats don’t explain why women dropped out of the workforce. Were they only working temporarily to help support their household during the recession? Did they drop out to enroll in school? Did they decide to stay home? The numbers alone don’t say.
• What’s more, while the participation rate (the number of people currently employed in a certain demographic) for women dropped to 57.7 percent this month from 57.9 the month before, it was 57.6 in January. So a drop from February to March shouldn’t necessarily be emphasized.
So, to recap: Fewer people are looking for work, and while most of those people were women which may not sound great, it’s also probably not reason to panic.