Hit hardest by recession, men now find work faster than women
The recession was hard on men, but the recovery is proving much kinder. In a rare turnabout, men are outpacing women in landing jobs as the economy struggles back to life — and they're doing it partly by taking work in fields long dominated by women.
The Washington Post
The recession was hard on men, who saw construction and manufacturing jobs dry up, but the recovery is proving much kinder.
In a rare turnabout, men are outpacing women in landing jobs as the economy struggles back to life — and they're doing it partly by taking work in fields long dominated by women.
Men are accounting for a growing proportion of jobs in the private-education and health-care industries, economic bright spots of the past two years. Simultaneously, women are losing teaching and other local-government jobs at a disproportionately high rate as school districts and municipalities cut back, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
The trend is a partial reversal of the recession of 2007 to 2009, when men saw a much higher rate of job loss than women, with steep losses in the male-dominated manufacturing and construction industries.
It also defies the historical trend. Women fared better in the job market than men in the aftermath of each of the past five recessions, according to the Pew study, which is based on Labor Department data.
Men have added 768,000 jobs while the number of jobs held by women has fallen by 218,000 since the recession ended in 2009, according to the study.
These are not grand times for male workers, though. Unemployment remains a full percentage point higher for them — the rates were about the same before the recession — and 56 percent of unemployed Americans in May were men.
But it is clear men are looking outside their traditional fields to find work. For example, they held about 23 percent of health-care and education jobs before the recession but account for 39 percent of the positions added in those fields since summer 2009.
As male-dominated industries remain in the doldrums and men look elsewhere for work, local governments have been slashing their majority-female work forces. Employment in the sector held steady during the recession, but tens of thousands of schoolteachers and other civil servants have been laid off the past year.
Women make up the majority of employees in local government nationwide and have been particularly battered by the recent public-sector layoffs.
"Men were in a deeper hole in terms of jobs lost during the recession, and it make sense that they would come back faster," said Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, who has studied differences in employment trends for men and women. "But there's also a large role played by cuts at state and local governments. We're laying off teachers around the country."
Still, something more than sectorial shifts seems to be afoot. According to the Pew study, men have done better than women in 15 of 16 major sectors of employment, in sectors that are male-dominated, female-dominated and evenly divided.
While the Pew researchers were hesitant about drawing firm conclusions, one possibility is that men, who are at the moment disproportionately unemployed, are more willing to accept low wages or a job outside their comfort zone than women.
More fundamentally, with the nation mired in a slow, grinding recovery, full results are not in.
"We're still in rough waters," said Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew's social and demographic trends project who led the study. "The story is still being written, and we don't know where we'll end up."
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