Dependence On Government Jobs Leaves Women Behind In Recovery: Report

10/12/2011 01:24 pm ET | Updated Dec 12, 2011

Women make up slightly more than half of the U.S. population, but they gained less than 4 percent of new jobs created last month, according to a recent report by the National Women's Law Center.

Women gained 4,000 jobs in September out of a total of 103,000, a NWLC analysis of Department of Labor data found. September’s job gains for women were abysmal, but the month’s numbers are only the latest part of a larger trend: Since June 2009, the start of the recovery, women have lost 264,000 jobs, while the economy has gained a total of 841,000, according to the NWLC.

"The unemployment balance between men and women can often be explained by sectors," said Sylvia Ann Hewitt, founding president of the Center For Work-Life Policy. "What’s been going on very recently is a tremendous cutback in state local government jobs because of the way which the deficits are biting, and those kinds of jobs are female-dominated. There’s tremendous red ink flushing around the townships and states of America right now."

In September the public sector slashed 34,000 jobs, 28,000 of which were held by women, according to NWLC. Women have lost a total of 407,000 public sector jobs since the start of the recovery, virtually wiping out their private sector gains.

The recovery has been especially tough on black women, who lost 258,000 jobs since June 2009 -- more than they lost during the recession, and over 100,000 more jobs lost than black men gained during the recovery.

High unemployment, plummeting home values and depressed consumer spending have pushed down local tax revenues, the National League of Cities reported last month. In response, one in three city finance officials said they were forced to lay off employees.

"Men have at least gained some new jobs since the end of the recession whereas women are going backwards," said Joan Entmacher, NWLC’s vice president for family economic security. "The main reason for that is that layoffs in the public sector really picked up during the recovery period."

Women's unemployment rose 0.4 percent during the recovery from 7.7 in June 2009 to 8.1 percent in September 2011, according to the NWLC -- still lower than the national average of 9.1 percent. But the unemployment rate for men dropped 1.1 percent during the same period, from 9.9 percent in June 2009 to 8.8 percent in September 2011.

Anne Ladky, executive director of Women Employed, an advocacy organization that aims to improve the economic status of women, called the recovery’s job creation pattern a “double whammy” for women.

“Women are being hit on both ends of this,” Ladky said. “The growth, as it appears to be, is in sectors where women are not well represented, and women are heavily represented in the sectors where there are significant layoffs.”

During the recession, projects funded by the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, known as the stimulus package, helped stave off mass public sector layoffs, but without such support during the recovery, state and local governments are forced to slash jobs, many of which were held by women, Entmacher said.

“The scary part is we can see the impact of choices that policy makers have made to cut funding for public services, which both eliminates jobs and services that people need,” Entmacher said.

Some proposals in President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act, including support for state and local governments to hire more teachers and training programs that would help women and others get access to jobs in infrastructure, could help the job crisis among women, Entmacher said. Still, it is difficult to tell exactly what impact the bill -- which the Senate voted down Tuesday night -- would have on creating teaching jobs, The Associated Press reports. The Obama administration will likely move to push Congress to pass smaller pieces of the jobs act

Entmacher said she’s pleased to see that the act addresses the jobs needs of women by focusing on more than just building infrastructure. As the effects of the recession became apparent, public discourse often focused on the disproportionate job losses suffered by men because of cuts in industries such as manufacturing and construction.

"It has distracted from the load on women because they have been really bailing men out, taking on longer hours," Hewitt said. "There’s quite a lot of evidence showing that when a man is out of work he doesn’t actually do more at home, he spends his time looking for a job."

The 2010 American Time Use Survey found that both unemployed men and women were more likely to do housework than their employed counterparts. Still, unemployed women spent more time on housework than laid off men, the survey found.

The discussion also distracts from the difficulty women face in finding a job, Entmacher said. More than 45 percent of women have been out of a job for more than 27 weeks, according to the NWLC.

"Men lost about 70 percent of the jobs during the recession, so you would expect women to get maybe 30 percent of the jobs during the recovery, but it’s not like they’re getting 30 percent or 10 percent or 5 percent," Entmacher said. "They’re going negative, women are actually moving backwards."