A growing number of women who are ostensibly in their peak earning years are deciding not to participate in the U.S. labor force. The declining labor force participation of women in their 40's and 50's in the labor force is attributed to numerous factors, including the need to care for parents. Reductions in state and local government have also hit this group harder than most.
Between September 2009 and April of the current year, 640,000 state and local government workers lost their jobs according to the U.S. Labor Department. Almost half were in education, an industry in which they typical employee is a woman in her 40s. Since the onset of the recession, the number of working women aged 45 to 54 has declined by more than 3.5 percent.
According to the New York Times, there are now roughly 1 million fewer women of that age in the labor force compared to the peak achieved at the end of 2009. For younger women, the rate of decline was about 2 percent, with many of those younger women dropping out of the workforce to return to school or to focus on providing care to young children. A Pew Research Center survey conducted late last year reported that 27 percent of women surveyed had quit their job to care for a child or family member.