A woman is now the primary breadwinner in millions of families across the United States because her husband has lost his job. Three out of four jobs lost during our Great Recession, which began in December 2007, have been men’s jobs. This has left women to support their families nationwide—a task made more challenging since women typically earn only 78 cents compared to the male dollar.
Men have lost more jobs than women because the industries with the largest jobs losses so far during the recession have been ones dominated by men. New Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Establishment Survey data for March 2009 shows that since the recession began men have lost 75.0 percent of all nonfarm jobs and 72.7 percent of all private-sector jobs.
Women have become a larger share of payroll employees. As of March 2009, the latest data available, women made up nearly half the labor force: 49.7 percent of all workers employed in the United States are women, up from 48.7 percent when the recession began in December 2007.
Looking at data for April 2009 on the share of men and women at work, we see that the share of men with a job is lower than it has ever been before: Only 68.1 percent of adult men have a job, down 4.4 percentage points from when the recession began. Among adult women, 56.8 percent had a job in April, down 1.3 percentage points since the recession began. The unemployment rate for adult men was 9.4 percent in April—more than double what it was in December 2007—while adult women’s unemployment was 7.1 percent in April. The male unemployment rate is now 2.3 percentage points higher than women’s, larger than at any other time since 1949.
Women are also less likely than men to be unemployed in married families. The unemployment rate for married men, at 6.3 percent, is higher than at any time since 1983, while the unemployment rate for married women is 5.5 percent, the highest since 1986. Among women maintaining families, unemployment is at 10.0 percent.