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US job market shows signs of cooling, with just 175,000 jobs added in April

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The employment rate of women in their prime working years just hit an all-time high in April.

The labor force participation rate for women between the ages of 25 and 54 climbed 0.3 percentage points to 78% last month, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

In recent years, women’s labor force participation rebounded from a pandemic “she-cession” and returned to its pre-pandemic form of making progressively historic labor market gains.

Prior to the pandemic, women’s labor force participation rates rose faster than their male counterparts as female-dominated industries such as health care and caregiving saw rapid growth; educational attainment for women rose substantially; and there were greater inroads by women into traditionally male-dominated fields such as construction, agriculture, and maintenance.

Since the pandemic, other developments helped serve as further drivers: increased work flexibility and strong job gains in female-dominated industries such as health care.

Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank, said better labor force participation was one of the main reasons why the overall unemployment rate ticked higher in April to 3.9%.

“The employment-population ratio for workers ages 25-54 was near the highest since 2022 and for workers 16-24 was near the highest since 2008,” Adams wrote in a note on Friday.

Still, the overall labor force participation rate (workers 16 and older) was unchanged at 62.7%, nearing its post-pandemic high. Labor force participation rates have been on the decline since 2000 due to demographic shifts (largely, aging Baby Boomers). The pandemic effects (early retirements, deaths, long-Covid, caregiving needs) have played a role as well.

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