The depressing reason women are gaining labor market share

January 17, 2014

The mancession continues. What seems like a step forward for women in the workplace is actually bad for both genders*.

Last week’s BLS data revealed that all of the job gains in the labor market in December went to women.

The term mancession seems to have been coined back in 2009. In a post dedicated to the topic at the time, Catherine Rampell wrote:

In the 2001 recession, men were also disproportionately affected by job losses and women gained a larger share of the labor force as a result. But in the post-recession boom years, men started to regain some of their lost ground. The same may happen in the coming months or years, if the job market starts to recover.

So far, men haven’t regained much of their lost ground. Here’s what the proportion of male (blue) and female (red-orange) workers has looked like over the last 45 years.

Here I zoomed in to only the last two recessions:


Women as a percentage of the workforce just barely declined post-recession. As a singular data point, that seems like something to celebrate. But what you see here is men getting hit really hard between 2006 and 2010 (that’s construction and manufacturing both shrinking). Women lost jobs, but fewer (that’s healthcare and education weathering the recession okay). Since 2010, neither group has really recovered. Worse, the little recovery there has been, especially for women, has been in low-wage industries.

Matt Yglesias takes a closer look at the mancession phenomenon, breaking the trend down by age group. Older workers of both genders, he finds, weathered the last few years fairly well. Younger workers are a different story, though. He writes, “the younger you look the more you see men’s disemployment as a theme. For younger workers we really are slouching toward gender equity—we’re just doing it more by men becoming worse off than by women becoming better off.”

*I’m sticking to the gender binary here because BLS data does.

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