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The recession’s gender gap: from ‘man-cession’ to ‘he-covery’

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The “man-cession” may be improving.

Men were hit harder and earlier by job losses than women in the downturn. As of last month, the unemployment rate for adult men was 8.9 percent, versus 8 percent among women. But men are also recovering faster and have made back about 28 percent of the 6.1 million jobs they’ve lost; women have regained about 10.8 percent, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

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The hiring gap is partly attributable to the fact that men and women are concentrated in different industries. Men were particularly hard hit by the early contraction in construction and manufacturing, but the worst in those sectors seem to have passed. Women, by contrast, hold an outsize number of public-sector jobs that have only recently begun to feel the brunt of budget cuts. But there’s also evidence that women lost jobs at a higher rate than men in certain sectors of the economy. After the jump is a chart from the Economic Policy Institute looking at these differences.

SOURCE: ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE

Some advocates argue that to help more women get back into the workforce, investments and opportunities need to go beyond the “physical” infrastructure projects that have been at the heart of most Democratic recovery plans. A group from the Institute for Women’s Policy Researchers has proposed providing state and local aid to save public-sector jobs and extending the school day, Nancy Folbre, an economist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, wrote in the New York Times. Folbre and other scholars argue that “human infrastructure” is equally important and can create jobs more effectively than building bridges or roads--and can better address the gender disparity in employment. They explained:

According to the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, investing in social sector jobs, such as early childhood education and home-based care, generates the most jobs per $1 invested and also provides the most jobs to the most vulnerable groups of unemployed. Investing in care jobs creates twice the number of jobs as the same investment in physical infrastructure and 1.5 times the number of jobs as the same investment in green energy. The Levy Institute recommends grants to state and local government enabling them to increase funding for teaching, child care and home health care.

As the stimulus revealed, physical infrastructure projects often proved to be daunting logistical endeavors, some of which were not as “shovel-ready” as promised. There may be more direct ways to create jobs by injecting money in health-care and education, though any proposal to support the public-sector is bound to be politically contentious as well.

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