No One Can Explain the Economic Recovery's Gender Gap

Numbers of women at home increase while men net 768,000 jobs

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Two years after the official end of the recession the Labor Department reported Friday that a whopping 18,000 jobs were created nationwide in June and that the unemployment rate remains at a malignant 9.2%. The U.S. has 545,000 more unemployed citizens today than it did in March. But the new numbers from The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that this problem is not distributed evenly in the workforce: while men are getting jobs women continue to lose them.

What the Pew Research Center can’t say is why. In the last two years men in the U.S. have gained 768,000 jobs and women have lost a total of 218,000 jobs; the overall rate of unemployment for men fell from 10.6% to 9.5% between June of 2009 and June of 2011 during the same period it rose from 8.2% to 8.5% for women. The labor force participation rate, the portion of the population who is working or wants to work, may be the reason.

Around 2000 the population percentage of women who worked or wanted to work stopped an increase begun in the 70s and leveled off at about 59.9% of working-age women. That number could be unofficially shifting back to pre-boom percentages as jobs remain scarce. More total men than women are looking for work and more men are being hired: according to the Pew research, several sectors that are traditional strongholds for working women including retail, education, and health services favored hiring men over women between 2009 and 2011. Furthermore, with 14.1 million unemployed citizens and men more likely to work outside a professional comfort zone or area of expertise, many families may be choosing to send one spouse to work, the man.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.