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What A Recession Could Mean for Women’s Unemployment (#GotBitcoin?)

How would female job hunters fare in the next recession? Likely better than men, if history is any indication. What A Recession Could Mean for Women’s Unemployment

While the unemployment rate for women has moved in tandem with that of men since the 1980s, there is one notable exception—during recessions. When the economy contracts, joblessness spikes higher among men than women.

The recent downturn offered the latest glimpse of this phenomenon. The male rate hit a high of 11.1% in 2009, well above the female peak of 9.0% in 2010.

This gap reflects the gender concentrations in different industries and occupations, economists say.

“Women are more likely to be in education and health…you don’t fire all teachers…and doctors during a recession,” said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

Male workers, meantime, hold disproportionate shares of the jobs in sectors such as manufacturing and construction, which are typically hard-hit by recessions.

As employment in these sectors has picked up in recent years, the gap between women’s and men’s unemployment rates has nearly disappeared. The female rate fell to 3.6% in September—matching the May figure for the lowest since 1953—just slightly below the male rate of 3.7%.

Ja’Mia Lee-Anderson, age 23, is one woman who recently landed a job in health care, an industry that will likely be more shielded than others from job losses during the next recession. She returned to school for an associate’s degree late last year after a period of unemployment. The classes she took helped her score a full-time job in September as a phlebotomist at the Caswell County, N.C., health department in September, a position in which she draws and ships patients’ blood.

“I’m definitely going to use my education and use the health department as a growing experience and a stepping stone” toward eventually becoming a health-care administrator, said Ms. Lee-Anderson, of Yanceyville, N.C.

Stefania Albanesi, a University of Pittsburgh professor of economics, said women also have benefited more than men in recent decades from increasing demand for non-routine jobs, which are less likely to be automated.

This is true of both non-routine cognitive jobs, which include professional occupations like financial analysis, and non-routine manual jobs, which include service occupations like home-health aides. Rising educational attainment among women is one factor helping propel them into non-routine cognitive jobs at a faster rate than males.

For now, few, if any, signs point to an imminent recession. Until the next downturn hits, a tightening labor market will likely continue to help pull down the unemployment rate for both women and men.

Amber Davis, 32, of Ames, Iowa, is one woman who recently found a job after a spell of unemployment.

Ms. Davis had been working temporary jobs for years and found herself completely out of work this spring. In July, with the help of Goodwill’s employment services. Ms. Davis was hired as a human-resources specialist for an Iowa school district, where she recruits maintenance workers and teachers.

“It’s a great opportunity not only for me, but also an opportunity…to be able to contribute to improving unemployment rates by reaching out a hand to people who are in need of jobs,” Ms. Davis said.

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Your questions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Monty H. & Carolyn A.

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