Unemployment Gender Gap Closes

Sarah Vanderbilt | February 21, 1:09 pm

Unemployment among men finally dropped to the same level as unemployment among women last month, part of a broadly positive jobs report.

Before the recession began in December 2007, there was little gender disparity in the unemployment rate. But over the next two years, men accounted for 71 percent of total job losses as women pulled even with men in overall payroll for the first time.

According to a 2010 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, gender disparities in  unemployment during the recession can be largely attributed to disproportionate job losses in male-dominated industries such as  construction. Another contributing factor is the large number of men re-entering the labor force during a recession yet failing to find work.

Gender disparities in unemployment have been hallmarks of past recessions as well, though on a smaller scale. During the 1981-1982 recession, for example, the unemployment gender gap reached 1.2 percentage points, compared to a peak of 2.5 percentage points in October 2009. Historically, the resolution of the gender disparity has signaled an entrenched recovery.

About the Data

In its monthly jobs report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes a breakdown of its national unemployment data by gender. Detailed data going back decades is available in the historical “A” tables.

The BLS data tool provides a gender breakdown for the entire civilian population over 16 (shown in the graphic above) as well as a separate breakdown for “adults,” defined as those over 20 years old. Because unemployment among teenagers is so high — 23.2 percent in January — the male and female unemployment rates for adults were significantly lower, at 7.7 percent each in January.