Why Is the Recovery Ignoring Men?

You've probably heard the catchy term "Mancession" by now, which represents the idea that the recession has been harder on men than women. And as my colleague Derek Thompson noted last year, we are actually in a "she-covery," a term that similarly indicates that women have been doing better at getting jobs than men since the economy began to improve. But why are women faring so much better than men? It's due in large part to a few key industries dominated by one or the other of the sexes doing well or poorly.

In an Economix blog post on Monday, Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts Amherst economist, theorizes that it has a lot to do with two industries in particular. Health and education services, which are dominated by women, have been steadily growing. Meanwhile, manufacturing, which is male-dominated, have been hit hard. She provides the following chart, as support:

13economist--folbrerev-blog480.jpg

Certainly, she is right. This explains part of the reason why the unemployment rate in November for men was 10.6% but just 8.9% for women. Yet there's another important sector to consider: construction.

Like manufacturing, construction is dominated by men. It's also a sector that hasn't recovered and isn't likely to improve much anytime soon. There's already an oversupply of housing and most firms' aren't going to be expanding their structures very aggressively over the next year or two. In fact, construction has lost nearly as many jobs as manufacturing during the recession, due to the real estate market collapse and its failure to recover.

Here's a chart that shows cumulative jobs gained or lost by each of the three industries since the recession began in December 2007 through November 2010:

health_manu_const 2010-11.png

As you can see manufacturing jobs had begun to rise a little in the middle part of this year, while construction jobs really haven't seen much of an uptick. It actually wouldn't be surprising to see the orange and red lines cross in coming months. As mentioned yesterday, manufacturing is slowly regaining its footing. Construction, however, isn't likely to improve much in the near-term. Foreclosures will continue to flood the market and firms are hiring very slowly, which implies that neither consumers nor businesses will demand much building in coming months.

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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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