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Compromising Women’s Jobs

SOURCE: AP/Jason Turner

Math teacher Betty Davis goes over an algebra problem with students at Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia. The Senate compromise legislation cuts aid to programs that disproportionately employ women.

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The Senate compromise reached late last week on an economic stimulus and recovery package cuts spending and increases tax cuts compared to the package that already passed the House of Representatives, meaning the Senate compromise will not be as effective in generating jobs as the House plan. CAP estimates that the Senate compromise will save or create 430,000 to 538,000 fewer jobs compared to the House plan. That is not good overall for women.

The compromise package cuts aid to programs that disproportionately employ women, while cutting services that help women and their families. The Senate compromise especially threatens women’s jobs. The largest single cut that the compromise made to spending was to halve the amount of aid going to state governments, to $39 billion from $79 billion in the original bill introduced in the Senate. Women comprise nearly 6 in 10 (59.3 percent) state and local workers. As the states see their tax revenues fall, they are being forced to cut back on services and, in many cases, cut hours or lay off workers.

According to CAP estimates, if women lose their proportionate share of state and local jobs, then they will lose 108,000 jobs simply due to the Senate reducing funds for the state stabilization fund. Even though women have not yet seen the scale of job losses that men have seen, the lack of attention to saving jobs is putting women workers in jeopardy.

During the course of this 14-month recession, men so far have seen larger job losses than women. The share of adult men in the United States with a job is at its lowest point ever: 69.2 percent. Adult men’s unemployment has risen by 3.2 percentage points since the recession officially began, to 7.6 percent in January from 4.4 percent in December 2007. Adult women’s unemployment has risen by 1.9 percentage points, to 6.2 percent during that same period from 4.3 percent.

Over the past year, women’s jobs have been sustained by hiring in state and local governments, as well as in health care. But as states are forced to make cutbacks, these jobs are in jeopardy. By cutting the state stabilization fund in half, the Senate compromises threaten women’s employment in the months to come. They also threaten the stability of families, which are now increasingly relying on women’s incomes to make ends meet as so many men’s jobs have gone missing.

What the Senate compromise legislation fails to realize is that jobs are disappearing faster than we have seen in many generations. The economy has lost 3.6 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007 and 1.8 million jobs just over the past three months. The United States has not seen job losses of this magnitude over a three-month period since 1945.

Compromises to ensure passage of the recovery package make sense. What doesn’t make sense is cutting the pieces of the package that are holding up our very fragile labor market.

Heather Boushey is Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress. To read more about our analysis of the economic stimulus and recovery package, please go the economy page of our website.

More on the Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

Column: A Step Forward, a Stumble Back

Background brief: Recovery and Reinvestment 101

Interactive Maps: Recovery Beyond the Beltway

Infographic: The Stimulus: Four Reasons We Can’t Afford Not to Have One

Interactive: Design Your Own Stimulus Package

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