WASHINGTON — The early stages of the economic recovery have taken on a decidedly masculine tone.
Job gains by men fueled January’s steep decline in the unemployment rate from 9.4 to 9 percent. In fact, men have gained 438,000 jobs while women have lost 366,000 since the Great Recession officially ended in July 2009, according to the Labor Department.
And the 984,000 new jobs created from January 2010 to January 2011? Fewer than 1 of every 20 — only 47,000 — went to women.
These numbers barely would have drawn a second look after past recessions, when women made up a much smaller share of the labor force. But women now account for nearly half of all U.S. workers, so the great disparity is all the more startling.
The trend has given a new gender-specific meaning to the phrase “jobless recovery” and is further proof the hiring rebound isn’t reaching all groups.
“The improvements in the overall employment picture obscure what’s happening to women. In fact, women have lost ground since the recovery began,” according to a recent statement by Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.
Some observers, however, say the one-sided jobs picture is more about economic justice than gender bias.
The Great Recession has been called the “mancession” because men absorbed 7 of every 10 job losses during the downturn.
Male-dominated industries such as manufacturing, transportation, construction and wholesale trade shed millions of jobs. Men were hit harder even in fields where they weren’t a majority, said Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group.
So as some of these and other industries slowly rebound, Boushey said it’s hardly a surprise that men have landed more than 95 percent of new jobs in the recovery, or “mancovery” as it’s playing out.
“The way this recession played out,” she said, “there was this gendered impact across a wide variety of industries, and I think that’s what you’re seeing coming back.”
After largely avoiding much of the job jeopardy that men faced, women are enduring belated suffering.
Education, health care and state and local government fueled women’s job opportunities during the recession. But because women make up nearly 60 percent of government workers, they have felt the brunt of recent layoffs.
During the past year, women lost 202,000 government jobs, or four of every five eliminated nationwide.
State budget cuts in Wisconsin could affect mostly women, and other states such as Iowa and Ohio are pondering similar measures.
“If states and localities are forced to make additional cuts in critical public services, women may fall even further behind,” said Campbell, of the National Women’s Law Center.
Even in the service sector, where women are overrepresented, only 99,000 new jobs went to women in the past year, while nearly 800,000, or eight of every nine, went to men. Women have lost 59,000 retail jobs since last year, while men grabbed 147,000.
Frances Serdjuk, of Bayside, N.Y., was one of more than a dozen female administrative staffers laid off from a New York law firm in July. She has been unable to find work.
“They only laid off women. They didn’t lay off any men. In fact, a male secretary whose boss had retired, they kept him to work for my boss who was laying me off,” said Serdjuk, 61. “I didn’t cry, but I was very, very angry.”
She said her experience, and the hiring gap between men and women, probably reflects a cultural bias about men’s traditional role as breadwinner.
“These companies would rather lay off a woman whose husband is working than a man who’s a sole provider,” Serdjuk said. “I always felt like I was perceived as having a working husband, and throughout my working career, I’ve heard that remark.”
Stacy Ethun, president and CEO of MRINetwork, an international executive search firm, said she’s noticed two other things that work against job-seeking women: a lack of aggressiveness and limited use of professional networking.
“Those are the two areas where women are lagging, and it’s impacting their eligibility for employment,” Ethun said.
“Having the courage and conviction to get out there, call on people that you don’t know personally, brag on yourself and compete for a job, those are all things, I think, that men in general are naturally stronger at than women.”
Source: U.S. Labor Department