According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Household Survey, in the last year, American women have gained 912,000 jobs while American men have lost 268,000. In other words, there has been something close to normal job growth for women, while at the same time, there has been a decidedly recessionary trend for men. Men still hold 11 million more jobs than women, so it’s not like this employment gap is closing, but it’s noteworthy that it has shrunk by more than a tenth in just one year.
These are some of the reasons why this is happening now:
- Wage disparity. Men make about 40 percent more than women, on average. A history of high earnings helps a man land high-paying jobs when employers have lots of money to spend, but it works against him when times are tight and employers want to save money. Also, higher wages translate to higher unemployment benefits, giving men, on average, a greater incentive to stay on unemployment instead of taking a low-paying replacement job.
- The housing bust. It’s no secret that construction workers are mostly men. It’s also no secret that the home-building bubble has burst — builders would have to stop building homes completely for at least 3 years just to sell off the inventory they have already built. So there are lots of unemployed construction workers, most of them men.
- Nursing. One of the few growth areas in the economy is nursing. Employers have suddenly been able to fill nearly all of their nursing positions for the first time in years, as a large number of nurses have come out of retirement to help cover their families’ financial shortfalls from such things as mortgage costs, unemployed family members, energy prices, and the declining returns on retirement savings. More than 90 percent of nurses are female.
- Cultural demographic trends. The retirement-age generation includes many women who rarely held jobs during their adult lives. Yet nearly everyone in the generation now leaving high school expects to work.
- The war. Some veterans returning from Iraq have injuries, mysterious illnesses (apparently caused by military vaccinations), and post-traumatic stress that make it a little harder for them to keep up with their jobs. At the same time, employers can be reluctant to hire workers who might be drafted and sent back to Iraq in a year or two. More than 80 percent of veterans are men.