U.S. businesses last month recouped the jobs lost during the deep recession and grinding five-year recovery. But the story looks different when you break down job creation between the sexes.
“Although the job losses experienced by both women and men during the most recent recession were severe, the resilience of women’s employment and its long-term growth are historic,” Catherine Wood, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said in a new analysis.
Ms. Wood breaks down payroll survey data to show job losses and gains by sex during the recession and recovery. Both men and women were hit hard by the downturn, though job losses among men outnumbered those among women by 2.6 to 1. The lopsided layoffs pushed women’s employment to 50% of nonfarm payrolls during parts of 2009 and 2010. The figure stood at 49.4% last month, compared with 48.8% just before the recession started.
The reason? “Men hold the overwhelming share of jobs in a group of goods-producing industries that are considerably more sensitive to changes in the business cycle, while women hold the majority of positions in the less cyclical service-providing industries,” Ms. Wood said.
Setbacks in manufacturing and construction were more severe than in health care and education.
Since the labor market bottomed out, men’s employment has outpaced women’s, but not by enough to repair the damage from the recession.
Overall employment among women last month reached an all-time high when payrolls topped 68.1 million. In fact, the number of women in payroll jobs surpassed its previous peak—67.6 million in March 2008—way back in September.
Women’s employment in the private sector reached almost 55.7 million last month, also a new high.
The jobs recovery doesn’t account for population growth. When accounting for the rise in the number of entrants to the workforce, the economy is still lagging for both sexes.
But based on simple milestones, the female workforce has recovered all the jobs lost during the recession and then some. Men aren’t yet all the way back.
According to the latest payroll data, overall employment for males peaked at 70.9 million in 2007, bottomed out at 64.7 million in December 2009 and rebounded to 69.8 million last month.
Men haven’t closed the gap in the private sector either. Companies employed 60.4 million men in March, just shy of the 61.3 million high from mid-2007.