The Great Recession is often called a “mancession” because most of the jobs that the economy shed were lost by men. Between December 2007 and June 2009—the recession’s official timeframe, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research—jobs held by men accounted for more than 70 percent of all those lost.
The past year has seen an upswing, although the gains have been too tepid to make a dent in the unemployment rate. Here, too, the trajectory has been different for men and women—but now it’s women who are the losers. For the full year of 2010, the private sector added jobs every month, and for the past three months it averaged 128,000 per month. In 10 of these 12 months of gain, however, the growth in jobs for men outpaced the growth for women. Last summer, women actually lost jobs while men saw small increases. And in total throughout 2010, men gained slightly more than a million jobs, while women gained a paltry 149,000. Did the relative strength of women’s employment in the downturn signal that their jobs are recession-proof? That’s not what it looks like now.
What’s going on here? Men and women continue to work in separate industries and occupations, which have been affected differently by the recession. Manufacturing and construction accounted for half of the jobs lost during the recession; these jobs, as we are so often told, are disproportionately held by men. And now, for men, they’re coming back: From November 2009 to November 2010, men gained 126,000 manufacturing jobs, while women have lost 18,000. Meanwhile, men have made even greater gains in professional business services: 278,000 new jobs, compared with 103,000 for women. In trade, transportation, and utilities, men gained 245,000 jobs while women lost 74,000. In administrative and waste services, men gained 231,000 and women gained only 137,000.
One of the biggest gender gaps is in government employment. And here, too, women are the losers. State budget crises have led to job losses that disproportionately affect women, who make up the majority of state and local government employees. Last year, local governments shed 259,000 workers, of whom 225,000 were women. At the state level, women have gained 55,000 jobs while men lost 43,000, but this relative uptick is obviously not enough to offset the local lay-offs. Nor is the picture likely to improve any time soon: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 44 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls totaling $125 billion for fiscal year 2012. If nothing changes, that will be the worst year on record for state budgets.
The biggest factor in the continuing slow pace of the jobs recovery is this: Insufficient demand in the economy. State and local governments are a part of the problem. The president should highlight all of this as he lays out his jobs agenda this week. That’s a message for women and men both.
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