Recession hits men harder at jobless rates, women at executive levels

Male unemployment nearly three points higher than female during recession

Updated 11/18/2009. By Oregon Small Business Association.

During a recession, everybody is affected.  Corporations, manufacturers, schools, and non-profits are all cutting their losses. College graduates fear not being able to pay off expensive student loans because they can’t find a job with their new degree. People nearing retirement age have to worry about being laid off and not having sufficient time and resources to amass a comfortable nest-egg. Retirees have to go back to work because their dwindling nest eggs have taken a hit. Nobody gets away easily it seems.

There is one demographic, however, that seems to have been hit less hard by job losses overall:  women.

While it is true that the unemployment rate for women has gone up in the last year by 1.6%, this does not even begin to touch the male unemployment rate, which has increased by 3%.

Four reasons are suggested for this discrepancy:

  1. Salary. Because men on average earn a higher income, they are more likely to be shown the door as companies look for the biggest bang to save money.
  2. Field. Many women tend to work in areas that are not being hit as hard by the recession, such as education and health care. Men, on the other hand, tend to work in construction, manufacturing and industrial occupations, areas which are taking heavy losses.
  3. Part-time. Women tend to work more part-time jobs than men do. Because part-time workers are less expensive for employers, they are less likely to be let go.
  4. Education. According to the Chicago Tribune, since 1981, women have earned far more bachelor’s degrees than have men. They collect 135 for every 100 awarded to men.  At the master’s level, the gap is an even wider 150 to 100. Unemployment among college graduates is substantially lower than among high school graduates.

The picture, however, isn’t entirely rosy for women. Although women seem to be taking less of an overall job loss hit, their numbers in business leadership and executive level positions have gone virtually nowhere over the past decade, according to the non-profit research group Catalyst.

For years, as the economy boomed, the financial industry seemed to be a place of limitless opportunity for women. It offered high-paying jobs and numerous possibilities for advancement.

However, due to the worst financial crash since the Depression, financial services and insurance firms have cut 260,000 jobs. Seventy-two percent of the missing workers laid off have been women, even though they constituted 64% of employment before the crash began.

There is no denying, however, that there is a definite gender gap in this recession, and this time men are on the losing side of it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Oct. 2009), the unemployment rate for men is 10.9% while the unemployment rate for women is 8.1%. Before the recession, the jobless rate was virtually the same for both genders: 4.5% for men and 4.6% for women in November 2007.

But now, more than two-thirds of those looking for full-time work are men, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Even more ominous, over the last year, hardly a month has gone by without the media reporting on a horrific murder/suicide involving an unemployed male

The rise in male suicide is among the most striking news stories of the recession, but there’s reason to believe that men have become much more resilient about job losses. In the 70 years since the Depression, the male identity has become less tied to that of sole family provider. That’s partly due to the large number of women who help support their families. More than 40% of households now have two wage earners.

The bottom line remains that the recession is hurting almost everyone in one way or another.  No one seems to be resilient to its devastating effects.

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