It was job gains by men that fueled January’s steep decline in the national unemployment rate from 9.4 percent to 9 percent.
In fact, men have gained 438,000 jobs since the recession officially ended in July 2009, while women have lost 366,000 over the same period, according to Labor Department figures.
And the 984,000 new jobs created from January 2010 to January 2011? Only 47,000 went to women.
That’s less than 1 of every 20 new job openings.
These numbers would barely draw a second look in the aftermath of 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 that 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,” said a recent statement by Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.
However, some observers 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 10 job losses during the downturn.
Male-dominated industries such as manufacturing, transportation and wholesale trade shed millions of jobs. Even in fields where men weren’t a majority of workers, they still got hit harder, said Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group.
So as 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.
“If I get hit harder than you do, it does make sense that my recovery should be more dramatic. That’s just logical,” Boushey said. “The way this recession played out, 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 now enduring some 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’ve felt the brunt of recent layoffs at the state and local level.
During the past year, women lost 202,000 government jobs, or 4 out of 5 that were eliminated nationwide.
“A lot of teachers were laid off. A lot of child care workers were laid off. A lot of local-administrator types were laid off. Those are disproportionately women’s jobs,” Boushey said.
As protests over state budget cuts continue in Wisconsin, other states such as Iowa and Ohio are pondering similar measures that could affect mostly women.
“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.