Women Now Outnumber Men in the Workplace
February 16, 2010
by Catherine Rampbell, New York Times
For the first time in recorded history, women outnumber men on the nation’s payrolls.
This benchmark is bittersweet, as it comes largely at men’s expense. Because men have been losing their jobs faster than women, the downturn has at times been referred to as a “man-cession.”
Women’s new majority in the nation’s workplaces comes decades after women first began trading in their aprons for pantsuits in droves, and it reinforces expectations that women will continue on the path to pay parity.
“Important milestones remain to be achieved, but women’s surpassing 50 percent of employment is something that historians will note for years to come,” said Casey B. Mulligan, an economics professor at the University of Chicago who has been tracking the recession’s effects on both sexes.
According to seasonally unadjusted data released on Friday by the Labor Department, women held the majority of nonfarm payroll jobs in January. They also did so during February, March, November and December of last year, but the shift emerged only on Friday when the Labor Department revised its 2009 data. Women’s slender lead was highest last month, when they held 50.3 percent of the nation’s nonfarm payroll jobs in the raw numbers.
Over the last few decades, women have been steadily claiming a greater share of the nation’s payrolls. In 1964, the first year for which the government began collecting this data, less than a third of the nation’s nonfarm payroll jobs were held by women.
But it was the recession that finally pushed women into the majority.
As in previous recessions, male workers have borne the brunt of the job losses in the last two years. Since the recession began in December 2007, men have lost 7.4 million jobs on net, whereas women have lost 3.9 million jobs.
In other words, both sexes are worse off than they were before the downturn, but men have suffered more.
The types of jobs held by men and women help explain the shift. Men are more likely to work in industries like manufacturing, which rise and fall with the economic cycle. Women are more likely to work in government, health care and education, among the safest categories in a downturn. Health care employment has been among the strongest of any type during the recession.
It is also “no accident” that women pushed ahead of men during colder months, says Professor Mulligan.
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