September Employment Numbers Drop After Hurricanes, Putting a Drag on Economic Activity

There was a drop in U.S. employment numbers in September, marking the first time in seven years that we’ve experienced backsliding. This comes as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma leaving displaced workers temporarily unemployed and delayed hiring – yet another indication that the storms hurt economic activity in the third quarter.

Last week the Labor Department announced that nonfarm payrolls dipped by 33,000 jobs amid a record fall in employment across leisure and hospitality sectors.

The decline in payrolls marks the first occurrence since September 2010. The Department noted that Harvey and Irma, which caused widespread devastation in Texas and Florida in late August and early September, had diminished “the estimate of total nonfarm payroll employment for September.”

Economists had forecast payrolls increasing by 90,000 jobs last month. According to the government revised data for August, there were 169,000 jobs created that month instead of the previously reported 156,000.
Payrolls are calculated from a survey of employers, which considers any worker who was not paid for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th of the month as unemployed.

A good number of the displaced people will likely return to work. That, combined with the rebuilding and clean-up efforts, is expected to boost job growth in the months to come. Leisure and hospitality payrolls dived 111,000, the largely drop since records started in 1939, after holding steady in August. There were also declines in retail and manufacturing employment last month.
Harvey and Irma did not affect the overall unemployment rate in the US, which fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.2%, the lowest since February 2001. The smaller survey of households from which the jobless rate is calculated treats an individual as “employed” regardless of whether they missed work during the reference week and were unpaid as result.

Those figures showed that 1.5 million people stayed at home in September due to the bad weather, the most since January 1996. About 2.9 million people shifted from full time to part-time as a result of the heavy weather.

The length of the average workweek remained unchanged at 34.4 hours. With the hurricane-related temporary unemployment concentrated in low paying industries like retail and leisure and hospitality, where average hourly earnings rose 12 cents or 0.5 percent in September after gaining 0.2 percentage points in August.

That propelled an annual wage increase to 2.9%, the biggest jump since December 2016, from 2.7% in August. Yearly wage growth of at least 3.0% is needed to raise inflation to the Fed’s 2% target, analysts say.

The mixed employment report shouldn’t have any impact on whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this coming December. Fed Chair Janet Yellen warned last month that the hurricanes could put a “substantial” drag on September job growth, but also predicted that the impact would “unwind relatively quickly.”

The U.S. central bank said last month it expected “labor market conditions will strengthen somewhat further.” The Fed left interest rates alone in September, but gave strong indication that there would be one more hike by the end of the year. It has also increased borrowing costs at two different points this year.
The employment report added to August consumer spending, industrial production, homebuilding and home sales data, indicating that the hurricanes will put a dent in economic growth in the third quarter.

Economists have calculated that the back-to-back storms, including Hurricane Maria which demolished infrastructure in Puerto Rico, could shave at least six-tenths of a percentage point from third-quarter GDP.

Growth estimates for the July-September period are as low as a 1.8% annualized rate. The economy grew at a 3.1% rate in the second quarter.
Manufacturing employment slipped by 1,000 jobs in September, and retail employment declined by 2,900 jobs. One big silver lining: construction payrolls rose 8,000 in September.

Silicon Valley Men Grow Emboldened in Pushing Back Against Gender Equality in Tech

Over the past few years, Silicon Valley has come under sharp criticism for its treatment of women. The New York Times’ reporter Nellie Bowles recently wrote about a growing number of men in tech who are pushing back against gender equality in their line of work. Journalist Kai Ryssdal subsequently interviewed Bowles about her story. Below is an overview of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Silicon Valley has been, hostile is one word, difficult for women is another one, for a very long time. The events you describe in this article, though, seem a step beyond hostile, no?

Nellie Bowles: Yeah. It’s been a very problematic place for women, for people of color for many years, and I think that what we’ve seen in the last year is, finally, people are kind of facing consequences for rampant sexual harassment, for rampant discrimination. And in part as a result of the success of the women in tech movement, there’s been a backlash.

Ryssdal: Tell me about this guy James Altizer who has been organizing pushback events, I guess you could call him against women in technology, for a while. It used to be just him and a couple of guys, and now it’s, you say, crowds of hundreds.

Bowles: Yeah, I mean, you’re seeing ideas that were fringe ideas or were whispered more quietly but that I think had been infused in a lot of these companies, you’re seeing them start to become emboldened and grow. You’re seeing more activity on things like the Red Pill, which is a Reddit site for men who believe they’ve sort of woken up to women’s oppression of them. Or, like, in the story, I describe, like, MGTOW, which is another kind of online forum for men who are in favor of living totally separately from women.

Ryssdal: Yeah, MGTOW, you should spell it out, right? It’s “men going their own way.”

Bowles: James is an interesting case because he’s had these philosophies for a long time, and then now he’s sort of seeing that he’s not so alone and that there are a lot of people who are thinking this way and who are talking about it and meeting together. I didn’t realize how big it had gotten.

 Ryssdal: Is there something about technology that makes it a place that is rife with discrimination against women and people of color and minorities?

Bowles: I don’t know. I think there are a lot of answers to give. The kind of classic line is ‘Oh it’s the pipeline, there aren’t enough women who are getting computer science degrees.’ I think that one’s kind of b.s., honestly. I think a lot of what we’ve seen in the valley in the last few years is just like real basic bad behavior like the sexual harassment stuff and the way that women are kind of pushed out of the workplace here. You know, a lot of startups don’t have very good HR systems, so there’s that, like, very basic thing. There’s no one to go to. There’s no one to really report to when things go wrong.

Ryssdal: So you get the startups, and they don’t have HR, and that’s great. But then you get companies like Uber, which explodes, still doesn’t have an HR system and then gets into systemic problems that at least partially caused the CEO and co-founder his job. You have a place like SoFi, where it was described as being a fraternity house, which is nothing that you want in a corporate atmosphere, and I just wonder — this interview will get pushback from men in technology, I’m sure — but I wonder if there’s something about the technology culture that makes it so difficult for them to accept women as peers and colleagues and equals in a professional setting?

Bowles: There’s so many reasons. I think part of it is a lot of workplaces aren’t seen as workplaces. There’s a big effort throughout Silicon Valley to kind of blend work and personal life and home, and you do everything in the office. For example, James Damore, who got fired from Google after writing a memo that women don’t like tech as much for biological reasons. That he posted it in a workplace forum, I think, tells you a lot about Silicon Valley and how it views the lines between what’s the office and what’s like your personal belief that is actually not OK in an office.

First Lawsuit Against Corporation for Discriminating Against U.S. Workers Under the “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order

The Attorney General’s office announced on Monday that the Dept. of Justice will bring a lawsuit against Crop Production Services for discriminating against American workers in a way that violates the Immigration and Nationality Act. This constitutes the first lawsuit based on President Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order signed last April.

In a public statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote: “In the spirit of President Trump’s Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, the Department of Justice will not tolerate employers who discriminate against U.S. workers because of a desire to hire temporary foreign visa holders. The Justice Department will enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to protect U.S. workers as they are the very backbone of our communities and our economy. Where there is a job available, U.S. workers should have a chance at it before we bring in workers from abroad.”

According to DOJ allegations, back in 2016 the Crop Production company refused to give seasonal jobs to at least three American workers who applied for them in El Campo, TX. Government investigators determined that 15 out of 15 of the company’s seasonal technician jobs were given to H-2A workers that year instead of American citizens.

The DOJ also found that the company placed stricter job requirements – including a background check and drug testing – on American workers before they could start, but did not wait for H-2A workers to fulfill the same requirements before putting them on the job. In some cases, the H-2A foreign worker never even had to complete these requirements.

The DOJ lawsuit also includes charges that Crop Production refused to consider an American worker who showed limited English-speaking ability, and instead hired a H-2A worker who couldn’t speak any English at all.

Historical Labor Shortage Gives Workers a New Edge

Are we entering a new golden era for American workers?

For a couple of years now, workers’ median earnings have been consistently rising at a rate not seen in years.

This may seem unexpected following decades of wage stagnation, when the good jobs of an earlier industrial and manufacturing era — where workers could get a lifelong career on the factory floor and a pension at the other end with nothing more than a high school diploma — have mostly disappeared. In place of those jobs, many workers now have positions with little security, irregular hours, and few to no benefits.

Still, the wage outlook seems brighter by the year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the midst of the recession in 2008, the average hourly pay of production and nonsupervisory workers (those who work at a cash register or on a shop floor) was 10% below its 1973 peak (after adjusting for inflation). Since then, wages have recovered almost all of that ground. Median wages for all full-time workers are increasing at a pace last seen during the dot-com boom of the Clinton administration.

And with employers adding 2 million jobs a year, some economists argue that American workers — after being crippled by globalization, automation, a monetary policy that has restrained economic activity in the name of low inflation, and government hostility toward unions and labor regulations — may at last be in for a break.

Yet even as they forecast a brighter future for the working class, economists also express concern that the new age of tight labor markets and rising wages will bring new challenges. As Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economist who was President Obama’s chief economic adviser, put it, “We are heading for a labor shortage.”

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, agrees. “Our problem going forward isn’t going to be unemployment,” he told me. “Over the next 20 to 25 years, a labor shortage is going to put a binding constraint on growth.”

A number of essential factors are at play, Mr. Zandi noted. The Federal Reserve will likely allow the economy to run “on the hot side.” Years of significantly low inflation have finally convinced the Fed to abandon its anti-inflationary bias, implemented during President Carter’s high-inflation era, and put more emphasis on how high interest rates impact employment.

Many experts presume that manufacturing workers have already lost most all the jobs to globalization that they were going to lose. Rather than “take” more American jobs, hundreds of millions of Chinese workers who have joined the global middle class over the last two decades will instead “create” jobs in the U.S. by purchasing American-made goods and services.

And even as demand for workers increased across the United States, employers are facing the stubborn force of demography: a work force that is growing at its slowest pace in more than 50 years, just as baby boomers who entered the work force from the 1960s to the 1980s now retire.

Over seven years after the recession and the job market began to bounce back, only 60% of Americans over the age of 16 are working, about 2.5% less than just before the economy took a dive.

On average, Mr. Zandi pointed out, aging will cut about a quarter of a percentage point more from the labor-force participation rate — the share of Americans either employed or looking for a job — during the next 10 years. By the end of that period, the labor force may even be retracting.

A Shrinking Labor Force, Despite Rising Wages

Wages are rising in the United States at the most sustained pace since the dot-com boom in the second half of the 1990s. The question is whether rising wages can revive the labor-force participation rate of prime-age Americans, which has shrunk to among the lowest levels in the industrialized world. (IMAGE Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Alan B. Krueger, Princeton University)

 

 

Lawmakers who’ve spent their careers considering the lackluster demand for workers must now turn their attention to a predicament they haven’t had to worry about for at least a generation: how to pull more able-bodied people into the workforce to offset a wave of retirements.

“We have had real wage growth, but the labor supply has been flat for the last two years,” Professor Krueger commented. “We get a very small number of workers back with higher wages, just enough to offset the people leaving the labor force because they are older.” The essential question is what other tools are available to pull them back in.

The answer requires dismantling a roadblock impeding the way to this potential golden age: Even if demand for workers is on the rise, those sitting on the sidelines of the labor force may not be the right kind of workers in demand. “The jobs in demand are more skilled than the workers we have,” Professor Krueger explained.

The share of men in the labor force who are in their prime working years — 25 to 54 —has declined steadily since the end of World War II. In addition, workers lacking a college degree have rotated out at increasing rates, as imports and automation cut into their wages.

For years, the economy barely registered this trend because women were entering the workforce in droves, offsetting the declines among men. But that trend flattened out around 2000. Since then, the labor-force participation rate among prime-age Americans has dwindled to nearly the lowest in the industrialized world.

And, as Professor Krueger noted, once workers leave off searching for jobs, it’s difficult to lure them back in. “After they leave the labor market,” he said, “people reorganize their lives.”

This is apparent in some pretty significant ways. One third of the prime-age workers who stepped out of the labor force are now receiving disability benefits, meaning they’ve left for good, Professor Krueger estimated. And then another 20% are currently going through the process of applying for disabilty benefits. In a recently released study, he estimated that about a third of prime-age men not in the labor force use prescription painkillers – namely opiates – suggesting that we can’t expect them to return to work soon. Professor Krueger has even estimated that the jump in opioid prescriptions could account for about 20% of the decline in men’s labor-force participation from 1999 to 2015, and 25% of the observed decline in women’s labor-force participation.

How do we get them to return? In an upcoming study, University of Maryland researchers Melissa Kearney and Katharine Abraham identify forces that have pushed workers out of the labor force prior to the retirement age of 65. Trade is at the top of the list, followed by technology — whether that means robots or other forms of automation — and disability insurance, which gives people income in the absence of a job. Supply-side factors — incarceration, or the impact of the minimum wage on labor costs — are next.

Professors Kearney and Abraham also note policies that might lure more workers back into jobs: expanding access to high-quality education is crucial to prepare students for navigating a changing job landscape. So is availability of affordable child care, which lowers barriers to women’s participation in the work force. Expanding wage supports like the earned-income tax credit will be important to make work worthwhile for workers of lesser skills. On the supply side, Kearney and Abraham suggest being cautious about raising the minimum wage, which some predict may price certain workers out of jobs, and reforming disability insurance to encourage recipients to return to work.

But that’s not all. Discouraging the over-prescription of painkillers appears to be an obvious choice, given Professor Krueger’s findings. There is also a clear list of things not to be done.

For instance, restricting immigration is could be a detrimental policy when workers are scarce. In addition, raising barriers to imports — provoking retaliation from trading partners — is precisely the wrong approach, especially now that workers in cheap labor markets putting pressure on American jobs are positioned to become significant consumers of things made in America.

If the objective is to protect economic growth and to let American workers have a shot at a new golden age of employment, slamming the door on the world economy is not the solution.

Allow American Workers to Help Rebuild Puerto Rico

** UPDATE: On Thursday the Trump administration announced it would temporarily waive the Jones Act to ease hurricane aid shipments.**

As Puerto Ricans dive into the massive clean-up effort following Hurricane Maria, they’re already looking to fellow Americans on the mainland for assistance.

However, American workers and businesses are prevented from playing much of a role in the reconstruction unless President Trump overrules the Department of Homeland Security and grants an extensive waiver of the commerce-killing Jones Act.

The Jones Act of 1920 mandates that all shipping between U.S. ports be carried out by American-built and American-crewed vessels. As a result, Puerto Rico faces bigger effective trade barriers with the mainland U.S. than even most foreign countries.

Federal disaster aid is already arriving to the island, but the Jones Act’s restrictions mean that a significant portion of the money will be redirected to foreign suppliers even though mainland U.S. suppliers would be more efficient.

And while Trump issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act right after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck, the Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it would not permit a Jones Act waiver in Puerto Rico’s case. It explained its decision by arguing that the Jones Act fleet is large enough for carrying out the current task.

But the Jones Act fleet already imposes much higher shipping costs on Puerto Rico than on other nearby islands, and it operates close to capacity in non-crisis times. To involve mainland American workers and businesses in Puerto Rico’s recovery requires a rapid acceleration in speed and capacity—something well beyond the capacity of America’s moribund crony capitalist shippers.

Until Trump overturns Homeland Security’s decision, demand for fuel, concrete, steel, copper wire, vehicles, and building machinery will skyrocket in Puerto Rico, while American suppliers are left out in the cold. Puerto Ricans will have no option but to overpay for rebuilding supplies (not to mention food and medicine) or purchase them from other countries.

This is flagrantly unfair, especially as the U.S. Virgin Islands right next door have been exempt from the Jones Act since 1920.

Puerto Rico’s critically-damaged energy sector is dependent on Venezuelan oil imports, meaning they’re supporting a dictatorship that uses that revenue to inflame anti-American sentiment in Latin America. If Puerto Rico were issued a waiver, the island could switch to cheaper, cleaner natural gas from sources like Pennsylvania and Texas.

Given the magnitude of the devastation in Puerto Rico and the multi-year rebuilding effort ahead, the Trump administration should issue a waiver from the Jones Act for Puerto Rico for as long as it takes for the territory to rebuild while using federal aid dollars. And to allow a transition from foreign oil to American natural gas, Congress should consider passing a permanent exemption from the Jones Act for all fuel tankers.

** UPDATE: On Thursday the Trump administration announced it would temporarily waive the Jones Act to ease hurricane aid shipments.**

5 Rules For Working With People You Don’t Like

One thing is guaranteed in the workplace: not everyone you collaborate with will be “likable.” These people may be business partners, investors, vendors, or even some of your best customers. Senior business advisors commonly offer advice on how to bridge these differences to accomplish shared business goals.

We’ve all heard the stories of business disasters resulting from teams who are so different that they can’t work things out. Some are legendary, like Steve Jobs’ differences with John Sculley. More recent examples include the travails of Uber investors challenging Travis Kalanick (the company founder), as well as the backstabbing among political rivals with the Trump administration.

But it’s possible to take a more positive approach, especially in light of the fact that the business world has increasingly become a global space, where all of us have to work with people across different cultures, languages, religions, political affiliations, as well as different generations and genders. We will all have to operate within more and more diverse teams — and our career success depends on doing this well.

These challenges were recently addressed in the new book, “How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You” by Kelly McDonald, a well-respected marketing and communications expert specializing in multicultural and diversity marketing. She provides key strategies and tools for communicating across cultural and other barriers – including collaboration with people you simply don’t like:

  1. Understand that they’re not trying to be difficult. Most people you have to deal with in starting and running a business are just being who they are. They are behaving the way they were socialized – the sum of how they were raised, cultural influences, and the dynamics of previous roles. Don’t let your emotion or theirs impede communication.
  2. Don’t try to change them – be civil and diplomatic. People can change themselves, but you can’t change them. Whatever their demeanor is toward you (or your business), remain positive and professional, and treat the other person with courtesy and respect. Do not allow tension to escalate, and your blood pressure and sanity will thank you for it.
  3. Adjust your expectations that everyone thinks like you. Business people come from different backgrounds and experiences, so don’t expect their behavior and opinions to always mesh with yours. Accept that there are very few absolute rights and wrongs in business, so expect different viewpoints, and don’t allow anyone to push your buttons.
  4. Focus on the business at hand and getting results. You are there to do a job, and so are they. Successful work relationships don’t have to be rooted in liking each other. Focus on the outcome you are seeking and what you and your counterpart need to do to get there. Success is about cooperation, respect, solving problems and working together.
  5. Agree to disagree without being judgmental. Saying “I see it differently” is neither judgmental nor combative, and it doesn’t mean you are trying to “win the argument” or persuade the other person to change their opinion. It diffuses tension and can lead to constructive conversation that allows you and your peers to work together productively.

Across these scenarios, it’s essential to remain positive and keep a can-do attitude. People instinctively avoid negativity and move toward positivity. You can serve as a role model, a leader, and an ally for many team members, leading to breakthroughs and results with even the most non-compatible situations. As an additional bonus, that positive mental attitude will not only improve outcomes in the office, but also improve your health and maybe add years to your life.

Keep in mind that you have a career to maintain or a business to run. Experts know that a diverse workforce, including people with different values and perspectives, leads to better decisions and solutions – eventually expanding business opportunities, profits, and satisfaction.

UPS Plans to Hire 95,000 Workers for Holiday Season

Looking for extra work? The United Parcel Service (UPS) just announced that it will hire about 95,000 employees for the upcoming holidays. The plan marks the company’s fourth consecutive year of hiring over the crucial peak holiday season.

The seasonal employees would begin in November and work through January, UPS said.

Workers would support the projected increase in package volume that typically begins in November and continues through January, UPS said on Wednesday.

Peak season begins on Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving in November, and runs through to early January when there is a large wave of returns from holiday gifts.

Amid Houston Labor Shortage, Opinions are Mixed on Loosening Immigration Restrictions

In Houston, the weather has clear – a welcome turn of events for residents starting the the long hard work of stripping their flooded homes and rebuilding those structure. More than 100,000 structures were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, according to estimates by Harris County officials. But it’s going to be tough to find enough workers for the massive cleanup and reconstruction efforts.

Usually, there are plenty of workers waiting to be picked for jobs on the street corners and parking lots along the I-10 freeway in west Houston. But not any more. Regulars here say the best workers are picked up early – around 7am. As explained by a 55-year-old man from Honduras (who was too nervous to give more than his first name, Ramon): “You aren’t going to find anyone left. There’s way more work than workers.” Ramon doesn’t have legal documents to work in the country.

Between 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning, fleets of trucks come to this part of the city to pick up workers, but they’re finding few takers for the jobs.
Jeffrey Nielsen, executive director of the Houston Contractors Association, tells reporters: “Finding the workers is going to be a difficult job. I mean it’s been a difficult job for a long time now. They couldn’t hire them before. I don’t know who they’re going to hire now.”

Nielsen is highlighting a severe labor shortage that builders were familiar with long before Harvey. He and other leaders in the construction industry want to see federal workplace rules loosened, similar to what President Bush did in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. That would allow undocumented workers already in the area – along with additional new immigrants – to come in and do the monumental work Houston needs.

As Nielsen tells reporters: “These guys work hard. They do a good job. I mean there’s a reason you see them all over the place.”

In the background, four Latino workers, are gutting a one-story ranch home from the Brays Bayou in the Meyerland neighborhood of West Houston. They’re tearing out damaged marble countertops, stainless steel appliances and the drywall up to 6 feet from the floor – 2 feet higher than the flooded water line.

“Americans haven’t really wanted us much in their houses before, but now they have to let us in. They need us,” says 41-year-old Fernando, who also didn’t want to give his last name. As he points out, since the flood, residents have been driving by and bringing his crew sandwiches and sodas. He’s never seen that before in the 17 years he’s lived and worked in Houston.
“We’re more accepted now,” Fernando adds. If that’s the case, it would signal a major reversal from the recent political atmosphere in Texas. In that state, lawmakers had passed one of the toughest anti-illegal immigration laws in the U.S. barring “sanctuary cities” and pushing aggressively for the repeal of DACA, which gave undocumented immigrants brought here as children a reprieve from deportations.

Other Houston residents and business leaders are less optimistic that a political change is in the air. Don Klein with the Greater Houston Builders Association doesn’t believe President Trump will change his tough immigration stance, even in light of South Texas’ enormous rebuilding needs. “We’re a nation of immigrants,” he says. “And to see that shut off and the labor set off is – I believe long-term is going to hurt the country.”

Without the workers, Houston’s recovery is going to take a whole lot longer.

When Women Move Into Traditional “Male Jobs,” Pay Drops

 

For decades now, median earnings for women have been stuck at about 20 percent below men’s. Why hasn’t there been more progress on wage equality?

The answer may lie with a troubling new research study: work done by women just isn’t valued as much.

That explanation sounds like a familiar old refrain, but details from the research help explain the persistence in this pay gap long after many causal factors behind inequality disappeared. For instance, women are now better educated than men, have almost the same work experience and are just as likely to pursue high-paying careers. No longer can the gap be explained with the old truisms that women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs like teaching or social work.

A recent study out of Cornell University determined that the difference between the occupations and industries dominated by men versus women has recently become the single largest factor in the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, as soon as women begin to enter a field in larger numbers, the pay drops — even when they’re doing the exact same job that more men were doing before.

Consider the different in jobs involving similar education, responsibility, or skills, but divided by gender. The median pay of IT managers (predominantly men) are 27% higher than that for human resources managers (mostly women), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the other end of the pay spectrum, janitors (typically men) earn 22% more than maids and housecleaners (mostly women).

Once women move into a field, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” said Paula England, a professor of sociology with New York University. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”

England co-authored one of the most comprehensive studies of the phenomenon, based on U.S. census data from 1945 to 2000, when the portion of women increased in many jobs. That study, conducted jointly with Asaf Levanon, of the University of Haifa in Israel, and Paul Allison of the University of Pennsylvania, revealed that once women move into occupations in significant numbers, those jobs start to pay less even after controlling for education, work experience, skills, race and geography.

Moreover, there was strong evidence that employers assigned less value to work done by women. “It’s not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance,” Ms. England said. Rather, “the employers are deciding to pay it less.”

A notable example can be seen in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from male to female dominated between 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined by 57% points (accounting for inflation) according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The position of ticket agents also shifted from mainly male to female over that period, and wages dropped 43%.

A similar thing occurred when large numbers of women became designers (wages fell 34%), housekeepers (wages fell 21%) and biologists (wages fell 18%). And inverse trend occurred when a field started attracting more men. Computer programming, for instance, was once a relatively menial role done by women. Yet when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.

While the pay gap has been shrinking, it is still significant. All in all, where men are the majority of workers, the median pay is $962 a week — 22% higher than in positions with a majority of women, according to another new study, published recently by Third Way, a research group seeking to advance centrist policy ideas.

Today, discrepancies in the type of work men and women do make up 51% of the pay gap, a bigger portion than in 1980, according to definitive new research by Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, economists at Cornell.

Over the past several decades, women have migrated into historically male jobs much more in white-collar fields than in blue-collar ones. Yet the gender pay gap is largest in higher-paying white-collar jobs, as Ms. Blau and Mr. Kahn determined. One reason for this may be that these jobs require longer and less flexible hours, and research has shown that workers are disproportionately penalized for wanting flexibility.

Of the 30 highest-salary jobs, including CEO, architect and computer engineer, 26 are male-dominated, according to Labor Department data. Of the 30 lowest-paying positions, including food server, housekeeper and child-care worker, 23 are female dominated.

Many differences that make up the pay gap have faded since the 1980s, of course. Women now get more education overall than men and have nearly as much work experience. Women shifted from clerical to managerial jobs and became slightly more likely than men to belong to a union. Both changes helped improve wage parity, Ms. Blau’s and Mr. Kahn’s research said.

Ms. England, in another research study, found that any work that involves caregiving, such as nursing or preschool teaching, pays less, even after controlling for the disproportionate share of female workers.

After analyzing the data, Ms. Blau and Mr. Kahn concluded that outright discrimination may explain 38% of the gender pay gap. Discrimination could also indirectly produce an even bigger share of the pay gap, they explained, for instance, by dis-incentivizing  women from pursuing high-paying, male-dominated jobs in the first place.

“Some of it undoubtedly does represent the preferences of women, either for particular job types or some flexibility, but there could be barriers to entry for women and these could be very subtle,” Ms. Blau said. “It could be because the very culture and male dominance of the occupation acts as a deterrent.”

For instance, social factors may be leading more women than men to move into lower-paying but geographically flexible jobs. Even though dual-career marriages are now the norm, married couples will more typically choose their location based on the man’s career, since men earn more. This factor is both a result and cause of the gender pay gap.

Some explanations for the pay gap cut in both directions. One interesting factor is the gender difference in noncognitive skills. Men are commonly thought to be more competitive and confident than women, and according to this belief, they might be more inclined to pursue highly competitive jobs.

But Ms. Blau reminded the public that it is impossible to disentangle nature from nurture. And there is strong indication that noncognitive skills, like collaboration, diplomacy and compromise, are advantages for women in today’s labor market. Occupations that call for such skills have grown at a higher rate over others since 1980, according to Harvard University research studies. Moreover, women appear to have taken advantage of these job opportunities at a higher rate than men.

Still, even in situations where women and men are equally represented in a  profession,  the pay gap remains. Men and women earn different pay not only when they do different jobs but also when they do the same work. Yet another Harvard study showed a pay gap within occupations. One of the most prominent examples is that of female physicians, who earn 71% of what male physicians earn. Women working as lawyers earn 82% of their male counterparts.

There are some policies that have been shown to help close the occupational pay gap, including raising the minimum wage (since women disproportionately work at the lowest end of the pay scale). Paid family leave is also a highly valuable tool.

Another idea, according to Ms. Liner of Third Way, is to place priority on individual talents and interests when people are choosing careers, even when that means going against gender norms. For instance, we could encourage girls to be engineers and boys to be teachers or caregivers. “There’s nothing stopping men and women from switching roles and being a maid versus a janitor except for social constructs,” she said.

The Real Explanation for the Gender Pay Gap: Motherhood

When men and women complete school and enter the workforce, they’re typically paid at comparable levels. But before long, a gender pay gap appears, and it continues to widen over the next two decades.

So what explains that change? The answer can be found by examining when the gender pay gap opens up most significantly. That chasm appears in a worker’s late 20s to mid-30s, according to two new studies — in short, the period when many women have children. Unmarried women without children continue earning closer to that of their male counterparts.

The reason that having children handicaps women’s pay relative to men’s is that the division of labor at home remains unequal, even in scenarios where both spouses work full time. That remains especially true for college-educated women in high-salary professions: Children are particularly detrimental to their careers.

But even married women with no children earn less, studies show, because women are more likely to give up job opportunities to either move or remain where they are for the sake of their male partner’s job. Married women might also accept a less demanding job in anticipation of children, or employers may decline to give them extra responsibility assuming that they’ll have babies down the road and need time off.

“One person focuses on career, and the other one does the lion’s share of the work at home,” said Sari Kerr, an economist at Wellesley College and an author of both papers. One was published in the American Economic Review ; the other was published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

It can make sense when a couple decides that the person who earns less – typically the woman – will take on more of the household work and childcare, according to Ms. Kerr. However, that’s also a significant reason that women earn less to begin with. “That reinforces the pay gap in the labor market, and we’re trapped in this self-reinforcing cycle,” she explained.

Some women earn at lower rates after having kids, but many don’t, and employers still compensate then less, presumable because they worry that the woman will be less committed, according to research.

Rather than advising women to avoid marriage and children, the solution to greater pay equality, according social scientists say should reside in the workplace and public policy that applies to both genders. Measures could include companies placing less priority on long hours and face time, along with government-subsidized child care and moderate-length parental leave.

As the data suggest college-educated women make about 90% as much as men at age 25, but only 55% as much at age 45.

The new working paper, which covered the broadest group of people over time, found that between ages 25 and 45, the gender pay gap for college graduates, which starts close to zero, widens by 55 percentage points. For those without college degrees, it widens by 28 percentage points.

A significant part of that change occurs early in people’s careers, during childbearing years. The American Economic Review paper, which looked at Americans born around 1970, determined that nearly the entire pay gap for college graduates came from ages 26 to 33.

The pay gap is wider for college graduates since their earnings are also higher, and men disproportionately dominate the highest-paying jobs. These positions also give more value to long, inflexible hours.

27% of the overall pay gap is from men being more likely to jump to higher-paying firms, the economists found. When married women leave jobs, they are much more unlikely to get a big pay bump as a result. Research has shown that they are more likely to leave a position without having another job lined up, and often move for their husband’s job or to take leave for their children.

But the lion’s share of the pay gap (a whopping 73%) is from women not getting raises and promotions at the rate of men within companies. Seniority and experience pay off much more for men than for women.

“On every possible front, women are getting the short end of the stick,” Ms. Kerr said. “Whether they’re changing jobs or trying to stick with the current employer, the returns are always smaller.”

The average college-educated man, for instance, improves his earnings by 77% from age 25 to 45, while similar women improve their earnings by only 31%. Men lacking a college education increase their pay much faster than women in similar positions during the first decade of their careers, but by age 45, women catch up.

Even women who catch up, however, pay a long-term price. They’ve lost a significant amount of pay — in wages, raises and retirement savings — along the way.