Now that the gender gap in unemployment has disappeared and male-heavy industries are seeing signs of life, we can finally put the buzzword to rest.
If you were one of the unfortunate few who watched ABC's failed wannabe-Tootsie comedy Work It, you wouldn't have known that the mancession has actually ended. But in fact last Friday's jobs report marked the end of the trend (and hopefully the persistent portmanteau).
Before we can declare it over, let's review what it actually was. The term itself was coined by AEI scholar Mark Perry. He was the first to give a name to a striking phenomenon during the recession (officially from 2007-2009): not only did employment tank in male-heavy industries, and not only did they therefore have elevated unemployment rates, but the gap between their unemployment rate and women's was the largest in post-War record-keeping. This was particularly striking because before the recession -- in the months from 2004 to 2007 -- unemployment rates were about equal for the two sexes, and women's even rose higher than men's for some months. This gap between the two rates hit a peak in August of 2009 at 2.7 percent -- men at that point had an 11 percent jobless rate, and women had 8.3. (The gap started closing after that point even as male unemployment rose -- women just started catching up with them in the unemployment department.) To sum up, as Perry puts it, "the impact of job losses was considerably greater for men, since almost 6 million men lost their jobs, compared to only 2.64 million job losses for women. More than two out of every three jobs lost in 2008 and 2009 were held by men (68.5%), or alternatively it was also the case that 217 men lost their jobs for every 100 women who became unemployed in 2008 and 2009."
He points out that much of this was related to the industries most affected by the recession. Construction and manufacturing went into freefall. He calculates that the largest job losses during the recession were in manufacturing -- down by 14 percent -- and construction -- down by 20.2 percent. Men make up 71.2 and 87.5 percent of those industries, respectively. On the other hand, some industries where women dominate were doing well. Education and health services was up 4 percent, 74 percent female, and government jobs were up 2.25 percent, 57 percent female.
So that's what Work It was trying to channel: this notion that the economy had so changed that the only job prospects are in female-dominated industries. Where are we now? It turns out the recovery period, officially from 2009 until now (even if it hasn't really felt like one), has created a very different world. While recovery should mean a good bump in jobs for men if they lost so many in the recession, women have surprisingly lost ground. Their unemployment rate has been rising as men's has been falling, in many ways because government jobs are now the ones to suffer overwhelmingly.
But there was still a gender gap in unemployment -- that is, until Friday. Analysis by the National Women's Law Center shows that men and women are now on par for unemployment rates, both standing at 7.7 percent. Mark it: the gender gap that had Perry, the media, and manhood so worried has completely evaporated.
On top of that, the supposedly recession proof, female-dominated industries are not faring as well. And the male dominated ones are starting to show signs of life. Construction is up 2.1 percent; manufacturing is up 2. Yet government jobs are down 1.2 percent, and that's across the board -- 1.5 percent at the federal level, 1.4 at state level, and 1.1 at the local level. Those government job losses are driving our current womancession. Job losses, which skewed male, have now turned into skewed job gains. Men had lost 6 million jobs to women's 2.64 million during the recession, but now women have gained just eight percent of the 1.9 million jobs added in the recovery.
This painful economic period, even if it's showing signs of improvement, is likely far from over. Men and women are both still hurting in huge numbers. But at least one thing has changed: we can stop calling this a mancession.
Bryce Covert is Editor of New Deal 2.0.