Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Labor force participation of women and mothers, 2008

October 09, 2009

Women's labor force participation is significantly higher today than it was in the 1970s, particularly among women with children.

Labor force participation, civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and over by sex, 1975–2008
[Chart data]

In 2008, 59.5 percent of women were in the labor force, and this share has been relatively stable over the past several years. Women's labor force participation rate peaked at 60 percent in 1999, following several decades in which women increasingly entered the labor market.

Labor force participation of women by presence and age of youngest child, March 1975–2008, 1975–2008
[Chart data]

From March 1975 to March 2000, the labor force participation rate of mothers with children under age 18 rose from 47 percent to a peak of 73 percent.

By 2004, the participation rate for mothers had receded to 71 percent, where it remained through 2008.

In general, mothers with older children (6 to 17 years of age, none younger) are more likely to participate in the labor force than mothers with younger children (under 6 years of age). Unmarried mothers have higher participation rates than married mothers.

These data are from the Current Population Survey (CPS). To learn more, see Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2009 Edition), BLS Report 1018, September 2009. Data on women with children were collected in the March CPS. The civilian labor force participation rate is the civilian labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population. The civilian labor force comprises all persons classified as employed or unemployed. Employed persons are those who did any work at all as paid civilians; worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm; worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family business; or were temporarily absent from their jobs because of illness, vacation, bad weather, or another reason. Unemployed persons are those who had no employment during the survey week, were available for work at that time, and made specific efforts to find employment sometime in the prior 4 weeks.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Labor force participation of women and mothers, 2008 at (visited May 20, 2024).

Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics