The Housing Chronicles Blog: Economic slump impacting more men than women

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Economic slump impacting more men than women

According to Business Week's Peter Coy, the current economic slowdown is impacting men more than women due to the nature of their jobs. So what does this mean for male breadwinners in the future? From the article:

From last November through this April, American women aged 20 and up gained nearly 300,000 jobs, according to the household survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the same time, American men lost nearly 700,000 jobs. You might even say American men are in recession, and American women are not.

What's going on? Simply put, men have the misfortune of being concentrated in the two sectors that are doing the worst: manufacturing and construction. Women are concentrated in sectors that are still growing, such as education and health care.

This situation is hardly good news for women, though. While they're getting more jobs, their pay is stagnant. Also, most share households—and bills—with the men who are losing jobs. And the "female" economy can't stay strong for long if the "male" economy weakens too much...

The share of all men aged 20 and over with jobs has fallen since last November, when private-sector employment peaked, going from 72.9% to 72.2% in April. For women the ratio rose, from 58.1% to 58.3%. The adult male unemployment rate has risen twice as much as the female jobless rate since November. Those figures from the BLS' household survey are echoed in its separate survey of employers.

To see why, go sector by sector. Manufacturing is over 70% male and construction is about 88% male. Meanwhile the growing education and health services sector is 77% female. The government sector, which has remained strong, is 57% female. The securities business, which is filled with high-paying jobs, is likely to be the next sector to get whacked—and more than 60% of its workers are men.

Men are having a harder time than women getting back on track after losing a job. "For a man to move from a $20- or $30-an-hour union job to being a Wal-Mart (WMT) greeter is devastating," says Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor historian. Men also shy away from some of the growing fields, such as nursing. Only about 10% of nursing students nationwide are male, notes Harriet R. Feldman, dean of the Pace University School of Nursing. Some retired nurses are actually going back to work because their husbands have lost jobs, says Lois Cooper, vice-president for employee relations and diversity at staffing firm Adecco Group North America in Melville, N.Y...

Over three-quarters of people who earned over $100,000 last year were men, says Queens College political scientist Andrew Hacker. In fact, although the pay gap between men and women has been gradually narrowing, it actually widened a bit over the past year. Median usual weekly earnings for men grew 4.6% from the first quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2008, vs. 3.1% for women.

That might be evidence that the jobs women are landing aren't necessarily good ones. Says Eileen Appelbaum, director of Rutgers University's Center for Women & Work: "We had an expansion of jobs for home health aides, retail clerks, child-care workers. They're low-wage, they're dead-end, and they don't have any benefits."...

There's no easy remedy for what ails the male economy. Edward J. O'Boyle, senior research associate at the Mayo Research Institute in West Monroe, La., says part of the solution is reviving manufacturing—a gargantuan task. On construction, he favors financial reforms to even out the booms and busts.

Economists are debating whether the overall economy is in a recession. For men, the evidence is clear.

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