In the News
Women and Job Security
Do women actually fare better in a recession?
Are we turning into a lipstick economy? Job losses for everyone have been devastating in this ugly, long recession. But when it comes to women and job security, more of us are actually holding on to our jobs than men are. And experts say that soon there will be more women in the workforce than men, for the first time ever.
About 82 percent of the current job losses have affected men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Women tend to work in industries like teaching and health care, which have held up better than traditional male jobs on Wall Street, and in manufacturing and construction, all of which have been hit severely.
According to economic consulting firm IHS Global Insight, three quarters of the workers in the health care and education sectors are women. Employers added 536,000 workers in those two fields in 2008, a 2.9 percent gain. Men make up 93 percent of workers in construction and 72 percent in manufacturing, which had 8.5 percent and 5.7 percent decline respectively.
As of November, women held 49.1 percent of the nation’s jobs, according to the non-farm payroll data collected by the BLS. That will undoubtedly rise as newer numbers are released.
Although their jobs may be safer in a recession, women still are at a disadvantage financially as the primary breadwinners: They make 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns in the workforce and they get paid for fewer hours, as many have part-time work to allow them more time at home with children. They are also more likely to be without health insurance.
There is also sobering news for aging men. Men who were 35 to 44, and those 45 to 54, had unemployment rates below the national average a year ago. Now their rates, of 8.5 percent and 8.7 percent, are above the national average. Women in the same age groups have rates are much more favorable, at 6.4 percent and 5.7 percent.
Teresa M. and her husband, Phil, unfortunately illustrate the reality of the statistics. Living on the east coast, Teresa went back to get her teaching degree 8 years ago after raising the couple’s two boys. She has job security as a middle-school science teacher, while Phil recently lost his 20-year job as an audio engineer, having recorded events like the Oscars and performances of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
“Thank goodness I have health benefits and will keep my job,” she says. “He’s been getting some freelance gigs, but at 50, it’s hard for him to see lots of full-time opportunities right now.”
But there may be another contributing factor to the narrowing job gap between women and men, according to Mark Perry, a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Michigan-Flint, and that is education. For 25 years, more American women than men have been graduating from universities, and the pace is accelerating. Currently, 135 women earn a college degree each year for every 100 men. The U.S. unemployment rate is 3.1 percent for university grads and 10.5 percent for those without a high-school diploma.
“This trend is going to continue,” Perry says.