For the First Time in 30 Years, Men are Emerging from the Recession Faster than Women

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Men are recovering from the recession faster than women from a jobs perspective, although the national unemployment rate for women remains lower, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The ‘man-cession,’ as it is dubbed by many, saw employment among men plummet by more than 4.8 million between November 2007 and June 2009,” says executive out-sourcer Challenger, Gray & Christmas, concluding this was due to massive job losses in male-dominated industries like finance, along with construction and manufacturing. In contrast, the number of employed women fell by 1.8 million during the same period.

Now, with the economy on the slow road to recovery, the job market for men appears to be improving. Of the net 2.4 million newly created jobs since June 2009, men have landed 74.7 percent, says Challenger, Gray, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

Good news for women

The good news for women, however, is that women have gained 1.58 million jobs since June 2011, while men have gained 1.49 million in the last year. Still, for women, the drop in unemployment has been much less dramatic over the past year. Unemployment fell from 9.7 percent to 8.4 percent for men, and only 8.5 percent to 8.0 percent for women.

Why is this the case?

“In part, it’s probably just discrimination,” particularly in a male-dominated area like finance, Challenger, Gray CEO John Challenger tells eFinancialCareers, though “something seems to have changed," he observes.

“Usually in the aftermath of recessions over the last 30 years, women have been [the ones] doing better," he says.

One contributing factor is the fact that manufacturing has been one of the top job-loss sectors of the recession which has rebounded—“and that’s been a more traditionally male place to work.”

According to Challenger, companies in general are beginning to focus more and more on productivity and the quality and amount of work done and awarding jobs and promotions based on merit, rather than gender. “That should help women,” Challenger says.

Of course, the finance sector and banking in particular has cut a lot of jobs too, and has not rebounded like construction due to “a lot of regulatory pressures and scandal.”

As we reported this week, the six largest U.S. banks had slashed more than 18,000 jobs during the first half of this year, with German giant Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup alone now preparing to shed 5,350 jobs in total, according to the Financial Times.

Whereas the male-dominated finance sector has not seen a lot of job growth, ”industries heavily dominated by women are also continuing to cut jobs." One of these is government, where women represent 56.7 percent of the 19.68 million Americans employed in the sector.

At the local government level, meanwhile—where downsizing in the education area has been the heaviest—women now account for just 58.7 percent of the workforce.