March 21, 2012

The Demographics of the Jobs Recovery

IV. The Economic Recovery for Men and Women

Men experienced greater setbacks in the recession, losing twice as many jobs as women from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009. In the recovery, however, men have gained four times as many jobs as women. The weakness of the recovery for women is underscored by the fact that they represent the only group among those examined in this report for whom employment growth lagged behind population growth from 2009 to 2011.

Employment for men increased from 72.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 75.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, a gain of 2.6 million jobs. The jobs recovery was strong enough to push the unemployment rate for men down from 10.7% in 2009 to 8.6% in 2011. But men had lost 5.2 million jobs in the recession, and their employment level remains 2.6 million below its pre-recession level.

Women realized a much smaller increase in employment—from 65.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 66.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Their unemployment rate also improved much less than it did for men, gently sliding down from 8.3% in 2009 to 8.0% in 2011. Employment for women in the fourth quarter of 2011 remained 2 million less than its pre-recession level of 68.1 million.

The growth in male employment during the recovery, 3.5%, outpaced the growth in the male working-age population, 2.1%. Thus, the employment rate for men rose from 63.4% in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 64.3% in the fourth quarter of 2011. The experience of women was the opposite of what men experienced. The growth in female employment, 0.9%, lagged behind the growth in the population of working-age women, 1.5%. Thus, among the groups studied in this report, women represent the only group whose employment rate fell during the economic recovery, from 53.8% in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 53.5% in the fourth quarter of 2011.12

  1. The divergent employment trends for men and women are examined in greater detail in Kochhar, 2011.