The following post is adapted from the Research Snapshot Labor Force Participation Among Utah Women, published December 2, 2016. To see all referenced sources please view the full Snapshot on our website.
More than 40% of Utah women work in just two occupational groups, both of which pay less than the median state average.
Over the past half-century or so, Utah women’s participation in the labor force has steadily increased at a rate of about 8% per decade.1 According to the most recent (2015) U.S. Census Bureau estimates, women in Utah make up 43.9% of the state workforce, which is slightly lower than the U.S. women’s share of the national workforce, 47.4%. In general, Utah women are about as likely to be employed as U.S. women, but Utah women are less likely to work full-time year round.
According to recent American Community Survey estimates for adults ages 16–65, 72.1% of Utah women worked over the previous 12 months, a slightly higher rate as compared to U.S. women (71.5%). Estimates for the same time period give different numbers for the specific category of Utah women “in the labor force,” which includes those who are unemployed but looking for work, though with those data as well Utah women’s rates are higher than the national average (59.2% vs. 58.1%). However, Utah women were less likely than U.S. women
to work full-time, year-round: 35.7% vs. 41.8%. Utah women are also considerably less likely to work than Utah men: 87.2% of Utah men had worked in the previous 12 months, and 60.3% of them had worked full-time, year round. A recent report ranked Utah first in the nation for the percentage of employed women who worked part-time (40.2% vs. the national average of 29.4%).
One key aspect of understanding the female labor force in Utah is occupational segregation—the phenomenon of women holding a high percentage of jobs in certain industries as well as specific positions within those industries. In some ways, occupational segregation has been decreasing over time; for example, in 1980, around one quarter of Utah women worked in jobs in which approximately 90% of the workers in that field were women. By 2000, only 10% of Utah women worked in such occupations. Conversely, some positions, such as elementary school teachers and cosmetologists, became even more female dominated during those same years.
Increasing Utah Women’s Employment Success
Public entities, corporations, and individual women can make efforts to increase women’s success in the Utah labor force. Working women in the state face various challenges; for example, parents may have difficulty finding quality childcare, which is cost-prohibitive for many families in Utah (as it is in the rest of the nation). This dilemma is amplified in Utah as we tend to have more children than the national average. Interestingly, a recent study ranked Utah 48th in the country in its “Childcare Index,” which ordered states by the relative costs of infant care, the proportion of four-year olds in publicly funded Pre-K programs, and policies in place to promote quality Pre-K care. Another barrier specific to low-income women’s employment success is the “cliff effect,” wherein women who have been receiving public benefits risk losing this support as they become eligible for promotions or raises at work, and the loss of public
benefits occurs faster than rising incomes replace their value. Various groups and policy makers are working to address these types of issues legislatively.
Read the Snapshot Labor Force Participation Among Utah Women