Center for American Progress

Interactive Graphic: Women Breadwinners More Important than Ever

Interactive Graphic: Women Breadwinners More Important than Ever

Men are still hit harder by the recession than women, leaving even more women to be primary breadwinners, writes Heather Boushey.

More about today’s employment numbers: Job Outlook Still Bleak


Men have lost a higher share of jobs during the current recession, pushing up the share of women on payrolls. Women accounted for nearly exactly half (49.7 percent) of all payroll jobs as of April 2009, the latest data available.

The reason that women are an increasingly large share of those employed is because three out of four jobs lost during our Great Recession, which began in December 2007, have been men’s jobs. Industries dominated by men have suffered the largest jobs losses so far. Men have lost 74.7 percent of all nonfarm jobs and 72.4 percent of all private-sector jobs since the recession began, according to new April 2009 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Establishment Survey.

The Great Recession has left millions of women nationwide to be the primary breadwinner—a task made more challenging since women typically earn only 78 cents for every dollar men earn.

The household survey shows that women account for a slightly smaller share of those reporting employment: 47.3 percent. The household survey includes the self-employed, which may account for this difference. Even so, the share of women reporting employment remains at historic highs: The figure had not exceeded 47 percent—as it did in December 2008—since the end of World War II.

Men’s unemployment remains much higher than women’s. The unemployment rate for adult men was 9.8 percent in May, while adult women’s unemployment was 7.5 percent. The 2.3 percentage-point gap is larger than at any other time since 1948. The unemployment rate for married men, at 6.3 percent, is higher than at any time since 1983, not counting previous months of the current recession, while the unemployment rate for married women is 5.0 percent, the highest since 1992.

Unmarried men and women tend to have higher unemployment than those who are married. Among unmarried women maintaining families, unemployment is at 11.0 percent, higher than at any time since 1992. Among unmarried women more generally, the unemployment rate is 10.6 percent (not seasonally adjusted), while the unemployment rate among unmarried men is 15.2 percent (not seasonally adjusted).

More about today’s employment numbers:

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

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