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Unemployment rate for women higher than men for first time in over six years

By Masao Suzuki |
January 6, 2013
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San José, CA - On Jan. 4, the U.S. Department of Labor released its report on the labor market for December 2012. The overall official unemployment rate stayed the same as in November, at 7.8%, and 155,000 new jobs were added. But the unemployment rate for adult women (20 years and older), increased from 7.0% in November to 7.3% in December, rising above the unemployment rate for adult men, which stayed the same at 7.2%.

This is the first time that the unemployment rate for adult women has been higher than the unemployment rate for adult men since September of 2006. The decline in the housing market that began in 2006, and then the layoffs in manufacturing following the financial crisis and deep recession in 2008 and 2009 hit male workers hard, with the unemployment rate for adult men soaring to 2.4% higher than that of women (10.4% vs. 8.0%) in October of 2009.

But the slow recovery has seen more recovery for men than women. Both housing and manufacturing hit a bottom and have been hiring. On the other hand, the growing cuts in government jobs since mid-2010 have hit women hard. Government employment has fallen by more than an million jobs since then, and women, who make up almost 60% of government workers, have suffered.

In contrast, following the last recession in 2001, government employment only fell by less than 100,000 during 2003 and by the end of 2004, government jobs were greater than their previous peak. The loss of government jobs has been ten times as great this time around, and the decline had been going on for more than two years and shows no signs of turning around.

The bipartisan effort to cut the U.S. government budget deficit by raising taxes and cutting spending while unemployment is still high and there are still 4 million fewer jobs than when the recession began five years ago will lead to even more cuts in government jobs. This is likely to hit women especially hard and could widen the gap in the unemployment rate between women and men in the future.