The working mother has made the transition from novelty to national norm, with more than half of new mothers remaining in the job market for the first time, the Census Bureau reported. "Every time a statistic approaches the 50% mark of the labor force, it's not an oddity anymore, it's a way of life," said Martin O'Connell, chief of the bureau's Fertility Statistics Branch. The labor force participation rate for new mothers climbed to 50.8% last year from 49.8% in 1986, marking the first time a majority of women reported they were working or actively seeking employment within a year of giving birth. By comparison, only 31% of new mothers were counted in the labor force in 1976, the first year the Census Bureau calculated the rate. O'Connell attributed the increase to women's delaying marriage and childbearing in favor of jobs and education.