The “mancession” seems to be ending, if not over. Two years ago, men’s unemployment rate was fully 2 percentage points higher than women’s. Now the rates are exactly the same for men and women aged 20-plus: 7.7 percent. Men’s employment has grown twice as fast as women’s employment over the past year (2 percent growth for men vs. 1 percent growth for women).
All that’s great for men, of course, who got hit hard early on by the drop in manufacturing and construction. But why isn’t the economic recovery doing more to boost women? WBEZ in Chicago asked me to talk about the mancession on Wednesday morning, so I did a little research. This table I put together from Bureau of Labor Statistics data makes the reason clear: Women depend heavily for jobs on some sectors that aren’t doing well in the recovery, particularly government. Government employs about 12.5 million women (57 percent of the government total)—and women’s employment in the sector fell by 0.8 percent over the 12 months through February. The same pattern is true in Britain, and judging from a casual Google search it has stirred more attention there.
There are also about 10 million women working in the sector that BLS calls “trade, transportation, and utilities.” Jobs for women in that sector have grown, but at a subpar 0.4 percent over the past year.
The biggest percentage growth for women’s employment (7.8 percent) has been in the mining and logging sector, which has been buoyed by a pickup in oil and gas exploration and development. But even with that boost the sector employs only a little over 100,000 women, so the impact on overall women’s employment is minimal.
The bright spot for women? Their biggest employer, education and health services, powered through the recession and has continued to grow since. It employed 15.5 million in February—a healthy 2.1 percent gain over a year earlier.