How Women Are Getting The Short End Of The Economic Recovery

The New York Times’ Floyd Norris noted over the weekend that, since the labor market bottomed out, the recovery has been much more favorable to men than women. In fact, a lower percentage of women over the age of 20 are working now than were working at the bottom of the recession:

From December 2009 through last month, the economy added 5.3 million jobs, according to the Labor Department’s monthly survey of households. Only 30 percent of them went to women. To some extent, that is simply a reflection of the fact that the recession hit men much harder than women, but the result has been at least a temporary reversal of the long trend of women holding an ever-increasing share of jobs. […]

In January, 54.6 percent of women over the age of 20 had jobs. That was the lowest proportion since 1993, and 0.8 percentage point lower than the figure in December 2009. By contrast, 67.6 percent of men over 20 had jobs, a rate that is 1.3 percentage points higher than it was at the end of 2009, although still below prerecession levels.

Part of the explanation is that the recession was especially brutal in industries like construction that are dominated by men, so they’re picking up more of the jobs as the economy comes back. But austerity is also contributing to this problem, as government job losses disproportionately hurt women.

As the National Women’s Law Center noted last year, nearly half of the job gains made by women in the recovery were being wiped out by public sector job losses. This trend is particularly problematic since a growing number of women are the primary breadwinners in their homes: currently, nearly two-thirds of American households feature a woman as a primary or co-breadwinner.