The Impact of Unemployment on Economic Gender Equality

Joel Anderson  |

Mitt Romney, in his efforts to counter the perception of a Republican "War on Women" made some bold claims about the state of the job market for American women under Barack Obama. Romney, while making a stump speech, stated that “real war on women has been waged by the policies of the Obama administration…did you know that of all the jobs lost during the Obama years, 92.3 percent of them are women.  During the Obama years, women have suffered.”

Politifact and other organizations have since noted that the claim, while technically accurate, is also very misleading. In short, it discounts the majority of jobs lost in the recession under George Bush. Counting from 2007, women's jobs account for 39.7 percent of total jobs lost. However, the claim has shone a spotlight on how the recession has affected women in the workplace.

The Mancession?

The most recent recession appears to have actually been far crueler to men, on average, than women in terms of job loss. This, though, could be viewed as part of the broader move towards a service-based economy. The industries with the largest levels of job loss, as well as the jobs within that industry, have mostly been lost from traditionally male-dominated areas like manufacturing and construction.

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"Over the course of the official recession, men lost twice as many jobs as women," says Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress.

Women, as a whole, have found themselves better prepared for the broader underlying shift in the economy that the recession appeared to accelerate, receiving 60 percent of four-year degrees from American institutions of higher learning over the last 10 years.

"American women are well-placed to gain over men in the workforce," says Derek Thompson at The Atlantic.

A Hecovery?

While the most recent recession hammered male workers, the modest recovery the nation has experienced since has been skewed towards men.

"Since the economic recovery began, as defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research to be June 2009, private-sector employers have hired 503,000 men," Boushey said in March 2011. "Over the economic recovery so far, men have seen especially strong job gains in professional and business services, adding 425,000 jobs."

Over the course of the recovery, women have picked up only 23.5 percent of the nearly 2.9 million jobs gained in the private sector and 12.3 percent of the 2.3 million overall jobs gained. Those numbers speak to what may be part of the underlying cause for women failing to take part in the recovery as a loss of public and government jobs has disproportionately affected women. While private employers have been adding jobs, government payrolls have generally been slashed, with particularly heavy losses from local school districts where women are heavily represented. Some 250,000 government workers lost their jobs over the course of 2011.

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