Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

February 2021

Women in the Workforce

Each year March is designated, by presidential proclamation, as Women’s History Month. It is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history. Women’s History Month evolved over the years, beginning in March 1978 with a weeklong celebration in Sonoma California over the week of March 8, which is International Women’s Day. The celebration spread across the country, and in 1980 President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution the following year establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event for the entire month.

From Susan B. Anthony fighting for women’s voting rights to Amelia Earhart’s first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean and Sandra Day O’Connor’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, there have been countless groundbreaking contributions throughout the years from courageous women from around to world and all different facets of life. These pioneers broke through barriers in politics, sports, arts, military and science, paving the way for all women to prosper.

Women have worked hard to find their place in the workforce. Rosie the Riveter became a symbol of that during World War II when women were being recruited into the workforce to fill the gaping holes in the industrial workforce left by men heading off to war. Although women had been joining the work force in greater numbers since The Great Depression, between 1940 and 1945, during WWII, the percentage of female workers in the U.S. workforce increased from 27% to nearly 37%. WWII also opened the door for women to work in more types of jobs. Rather than the traditional occupations such as nursing and teaching, women had the opportunity to work in production of military goods, agriculture, business and government. However, with the return of the soldiers, many women were pressured to return to pre-war activities and jobs.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the labor force participation rate for women was 32.7%, the earliest year for which the statistic is available. This means out of the nation’s total female civilian population of working age (16 years and over), 32.7% of them were in the labor force. Since that time the participation rate of women in the labor force has continued to grow, peaking at 60.0% in 1999 before beginning a downward trend to the most current rate of 56.2% in 2020.

South Dakota’s labor force participation rate for women has followed a similar trend since 1999, when data first became available at the state level. South Dakota’s female participation rate has been higher than the national rate by seven to eight percentage points since 1999.

Annual data from the 2019 Current Population Survey show women make up 47% percent of South Dakota’s labor force. The 47% of the labor force that is made up of women consists of 220,000 women working full-time, part-time or looking for work. In 2019, 212,000 women were classified as working in the labor force, and of those, 161,000 (76%) worked full time, 35 hours or more, while 51,000 (24%) worked part-time.

Nearly 72% of women work in four of the 13 industry sectors listed in the table below. The largest share work in the Education and Health Services, which employs 41.8% of working women in South Dakota. Education and Health Services includes establishments that provide instruction and training as well as those that provide health care and social assistance. The remaining three industries which each employ around 10% of the women’s workforce include Wholesale and Retail Trade at 10.8%, Financial Activities at 9.7%, and Leisure and Hospitality at 9.4%.

Distribution of Employed South Dakotans by Industry
  Total Men Women
Total Employment 451,000 239,000 212,000
Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction 0.1% 0.3% NA
Construction 7.0% 12.2% 1.3%
Manufacturing 12.2% 17.1% 6.6%
Durable Goods 8.2% 11.9% 4.1%
Nondurable Goods 3.9% 5.1% 2.5%
Wholesale and Retail Trade 12.5% 14.1% 10.8%
Transportation and Utilities 5.0% 6.8% 2.9%
Information 1.1% 1.5% 0.7%
Financial Activities 8.0% 6.5% 9.7%
Professional and Business Services 6.7% 7.1% 6.3%
Education and Health Services 25.3% 10.6% 41.8%
Leisure and Hospitality 8.1% 6.9% 9.4%
Other Services 4.5% 4.1% 5.0%
Public Administration 3.9% 4.3% 3.5%
Agriculture and Related Industries 5.5% 8.7% 1.9%
Source: 2019 Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Women are employed in a wide range of occupations in South Dakota, ranging from doctors to police officers. The occupational group with the largest percentage of South Dakota’s women working are professional and related occupations. This occupational group has a wide variety of occupations, including computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, life, physical and social science, community and social service, legal, education, art and healthcare occupations. The percent of the women’s workforce in these occupations is 29.1% compared to men at 14.0%. Service occupations account for 21.5% of employed women in South Dakota, while 18.7 percent of South Dakota women are employed in office and administrative support occupations.

Distribution of South Dakota Civilian Labor Force by Occupation
  Total Men Women
Total Employment 451,000 239,000 212,000
Management, Professional and Related
Management, business, and  financial operations 17.8% 20.4% 14.7%
Professional and related occupations 21.1% 14.0% 29.1%
Service 16.3% 11.7% 21.5%
Sales and Office
Sales and related 9.2% 10.1% 8.2%
Office and administrative support 11.9% 5.9% 18.7%
Natural resources, Construction and Maintenance
Farming, fishing, and forestry 1.3% 2.2% 0.4%
Construction and extraction 5.0% 9.3% 0.1%
Installation, maintenance, and repair 3.4% 5.9% 0.5%
Production, Transportation and Material Moving
Production 8.4% 11.6% 4.7%
Transportation and material moving 5.6% 8.8% 2.0%
Source: 2019 Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Women continue to solidify their importance in the workforce by continually entering industries and occupations previously filled more commonly by men. For more detailed industry and occupational data for women in the workforce, please see U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data using the links below.

Occupational Employment by Sex

Employment by Industry and Sex

Employment by Class of Worker (private, government, etc.) and Sex

Earnings by Occupation and Sex

Earnings by Industry and Sex