The Fed Explains the Mancession


On the Atlantic Business Channel, we've stated on multiple occasions that we weren't just experiencing a recession, but a mancession. Well, the Federal Reserve took a stab at explaining why men fared so much worse than women during the recession. Its findings probably aren't a shock: industries dominated by men were worst hit -- especially construction. Unfortunately, men will likely to continue to struggle more than women to find jobs during the recovery.

First, here's a chart the Fed provides that demonstrates just how deep a mancession it really was:

mancession 2010-03.PNG

The Fed writes:

A breakdown of the employment figures shows that men have been affected more adversely than women during the 2007 downturn. Between December 2007 and October 2009, nonfarm payroll employment fell 5.8 million for men but dropped only 2.5 million for women. While male and female unemployment rates were roughly equal at the start of this period--5.1 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively--they have since diverged markedly. In August 2009, the unemployment rate for men stood at 11.0 percent while that for women was 8.3 percent--a 2.7 percentage point difference that constitutes the largest unemployment gender gap in the postwar era. Although the gap has closed in recent months, it still persists at a very high level in relation to historical standards.

The answer why is pretty easily explained by the following chart:

mancession 2010-03 - 2.PNG

I would draw your attention to the categories of construction and manufacturing above. Both employ more men than women. You can see just how drastic the hit construction was for men. For manufacturing, in fact, a slightly larger portion of women lost their jobs, but it's still a male dominated industry, so their sheer number of job losses was greater for men. The report says that within goods producing sectors men lost 2.9 million jobs, while women lost only 765,000.

The study continues by pointing out that some industries with heavier concentrations of women fared relatively well. Education and health services are the standouts there. In fact, actual job growth was seen in these industries. That also gave jobless women an advantage over unemployed men at getting some of the few jobs available.

From the chart above, however, I do notice a few oddities. First, despite the fact that financial services and manufacturing are male dominated, though slight, they still saw a larger percentage drop in women than in men. I would have thought such industries would have preferred firing more men, so to keep the gender proportions less lopsided. But natural resources and mining saw the opposite. There, somehow, more women managed to find employment while 9.7% of men lost their jobs.

One thing is clear: men will continue to have a more difficult time finding employment during the recovery than women, given the industries each gender tends to dominate. Construction, in particular, will likely be a major struggle, while education and health services should endure.

(Image Credit: Cliff1066/flickr)

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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