Center for American Progress

Interactive Graphic: More Families Must Rely on Women Wage Earners

Interactive Graphic: More Families Must Rely on Women Wage Earners

The pace of job losses over the past three months has slowed, but men are still losing three-out-of-every four jobs, writes Heather Boushey.


The pace of job losses over the past three months has slowed to about half as much as in the prior six months, but men are still losing three-out-of-every four jobs lost over the course of this recession, which began in December 2007. Because so many men have been laid off, the Great Recession has left millions of women nationwide as the primary breadwinner—a task made more challenging since women typically earn only 78 cents for every dollar men earn.

Neither the job losses predominantly among men nor the wage gap suffered by women is likely to change soon. Even worse, sectors of the economy where women are most employed could experience job losses. Let’s go through the numbers.

The pain of job losses in this recession continues to be concentrated in manufacturing and construction, which disproportionately employ men. In July, the share of adult men with a job hit another all-time low of 67.6 percent.

The difficulties finding a new job can be seen in the sheer number of men and women dropping out of the labor force after a spell of unemployment. In July, both men and women set records for leaving the workforce, with both genders experiencing 1.4 million labor market exits after reporting being unemployed in June. Typically, women are more likely to exit the labor force, so these numbers indicate continued challenges for both sexes on the jobs front.

The share of adult men unemployed fell to 9.8 percent last month, from 10 percent in June. The share of adult women unemployed held at 7.5 percent, still well below the 1982 high of 9.3 percent.

Still, women losing their jobs could begin to catch up with men’s dismal unemployment numbers if job gains stall in the sectors that disproportionately employ women. After months of holding up female employment, however, state and local governments are now shedding jobs. State governments shed 5,000 jobs last month; over the past year, state governments have shed 13,000 while local governments have shed 15,000 workers.

With state and local budget cuts on the horizon around the nation, these trends do not bode well for women’s employment holding up in the months to come given that women make up nearly six-out-of-every ten government workers.

Heather Boushey is a Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress. For more on this topic, please visit our Economy page.

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Heather Boushey

Former Economist

Member of the Council of Economic Advisers and Chief Economist to the Invest in America Cabinet