By Raksha Kopparam, Senior Research Associate
California Black Women’s Collective Empowerment Institute
Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the labor market data of the third quarter of 2023. Below are five graphs that analyze the trends in California’s Black women employment statistics.
Labor Force Participation Rate
The 3rd quarter of 2023 shows significant growth in Black women's labor force participation rate, with an approximate increase of 10 percentage points between July and September. Compared to previous quarters, this growth shows that Black women's labor force participation is strengthening.
Several larger economic trends may contribute to these numbers. First, the overall strength of the job market, driven by economic growth and demand for labor, can influence labor force participation rates. Additionally, government policies and initiatives aimed at reducing barriers to employment may have played a role. The data also shows disparities in participation rates among different racial and ethnic groups, underscoring the importance of addressing systemic inequalities to ensure equitable access to economic opportunities. The upward trend for Black women is encouraging but highlights the ongoing need for policies and practices that support and sustain this positive trajectory.
Much like the labor force participation rate, the employment-to-population rate for Black Women increased by just over 10 percentage points in Q3 of 2023. This positive trend signifies that a larger proportion of Black women within the working-age population were employed during this period.
Many factors contribute to stronger employment-to-population ratios. Economic conditions, including job availability, wage levels, and demand for labor, are crucial determinants. Additionally, government policies aimed at promoting inclusive hiring practices and more parental supports, such as caregiving policies and flexible work plans, allow more Women to enter the workforce and feel confident in their family’s care and well-being. While the increase in employment-to-population ratios for Black women is indicative of a stable economy, it highlights the role that progressive economic policies play in sustaining and further improving economic trends to create more equitable employment opportunities.
While the Black women's unemployment rate rose slightly in August, September 2023 brought historically low unemployment rates for Black women. At 4.25%, the Black women's unemployment rate at the end of Q3 2023 indicates that the economy is strengthening across all sectors.
To further improve Black women's employment and maintain a lower unemployment rate, several measures can be considered. First, targeted workforce development programs and leadership training initiatives, such as the California Black Women’s Collective Empowerment Institute Leadership Training Program, can be designed to enhance the skill sets of Black women in all sectors. Reducing barriers to entry and promoting diversity in various industries and occupations is crucial. Additionally, fostering inclusive workplace environments and implementing policies that address pay disparities and support work-life balance can contribute to more stable and equitable employment opportunities for Black women.
The industries with the largest share of Black women workers had both net gains and losses in the number of new jobs in Q3 2023. Transportation and government, which has the highest share of Black women workers, experienced strong net gains in new jobs this quarter, while professional services experienced the largest losses. Overall, the trends indicate that across all industries, more needs to be done to increase Black women's employment. Programs that help Black women build the skill sets they need to thrive in all industries will not only help improve Black women's employment trajectory but will also improve the economy as a whole.
The third quarter of 2023 was one of the strongest quarters for California’s Black Women workers since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. With economic hurdles such as mass layoffs in industries like financial services and technology or consistently rising interest rates, Black women were resilient and maintained strength in the economy. These economic trends also indicate that when there is effective public investment in the economy, Black women thrive alongside the entire workforce and that centering economic policies around improving Black women's employment opportunities uplifts the economy as a whole.