Monday, May 10, 2010

Who suffered more in the Great Recession?

The 2.5% gap between male and female
unemployment in May 2009 was then
the highest in history, according to Mark Perry.
So it wasn't a "man- cession" after all? Or it was, but now it's morphed into a "she- cession"?

For most of last year, Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint who blogs at Carpe Diem, has written extensively about the man-punishing characteristics of the Great Recession: that more men than women have lost jobs since the economic downturn began in December 2007.

In June 2009, he cited government data to show that the gap in the male vs. female unemployment rate was the widest it has been since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track in 1948. (Some suggest it's because men worked in sectors hit hard by the recession -- manufacturing and construction; others say it has more to do with who has college degrees vs. high school diplomas.)

But while the numbers early on showed men losing 80 percent of the jobs killed by the recession, the focus now has turned to who's going back to work sooner. And according to a report released today by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, it's men.

Between October 2009 and March, men gained 260,000 jobs while women lost 22,000, according to the report. (In April alone, women gained 86,000 jobs -- but men added 204,000, says the report, citing the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers.)

Still, the report worries that "As job losses slowed in the final months of 2009, women continued to lose jobs as men found employment." And for single mothers in the work force, the recession took a heavy toll: their unemployment rate jumped from 8 percent to 13.6 percent between 2007 and 2009.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-NY, who chairs the joint committee, told the Associated Press she was concerned by those numbers because families were more dependent on women's earnings as spouses lost their jobs or as more one-parent households with children were headed by women.

Of mothers who were working last year, one-third were the family's sole breadwinner, the report said, while two-thirds were in dual-income households. (And mothers as the only job-holder in the family rose from 4.9 percent of married-couple households to 7.4 percent between 2007 and 2009.)

Rather than offering any policy options, the report (timed to Mother's Day) seemed more interested in drawing attention to the recession's impact on working mothers. Or, as one member of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues told the Associated Press, "We have no safety net for these women."

As for the mancession, Perry blogged in January that he saw signs of its easing; yesterday, he pointed to improvements in the latest jobs numbers in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

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