Women have regained all of the jobs they lost during the recession, bringing the number of employed women to its highest level ever, the October jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.
According to an analysis of the report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), women now hold 67,486,000 jobs, a little over 100,000 more than their previous peak in March 2008.
Since the recession began, the overall jobs market has been plagued with marginal growth and high unemployment, but women have experienced a steady increase in employment over the past year. By June, according to IWPR, women had regained 91% of the 2.7 million jobs lost during the recession while men lagged behind, regaining just 68% of their lost jobs. By the end of October, women had regained 100% and reached a new peak in the number of non-farm jobs, while men have regained just 73% of the 6 million jobs they lost during the recession.
Private sector industries that have experienced strong growth throughout the recovery, including health and education, business services, and hospitality, have higher concentrations of women employees. Those sectors have added millions of jobs for both genders, but a larger relative portion of the positions have gone to women. Overall in October, women gained 90,000 of the 204,000 private sector jobs added, with the largest growth in leisure and hospitality. The gap between the number of men and women employed has decreased from 3.4 million jobs at the start of the recession to 1.6 million in October 2013, according to IWPR.
While surpassing pre-recession employment is something to celebrate, the number of jobs added is nowhere near where women or men would be had the number of available jobs kept pace with the growing labor force. While women have regained their pre-crash employment levels in absolute terms, the percentage of women in the labor force who are employed has not rebounded to its pre-crash levels.
“Just surpassing the pre-recession level of employment doesn’t come close to doing it,” Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told TIME. “There’s still long way to go before getting back to health.” Had jobs growth been on track with population growth, women would have added over 3 million more jobs than what they’ve actually gained and men would have added over 5 million.