09/14/2012 11:49 am ET

All The Single Ladies Are... Unemployed

Economists have long known that single women were far more likely to lose their jobs during the Great Recession -- in fact, the employment gap between single and married women was as large as the much-vaunted one between women and men. But here's something puzzling: unmarried women started losing jobs well before the recession began, and nobody's really sure why.

According to a paper presented today at a major macroeconomics conference by Johns Hopkins economist Robert Moffitt, the rising unemployment that characterized the Great Recession actually started much earlier, in the year 2000. Until then, women's employment in particular had been steadily rising -- but after about 2000 it began to level out, and single women's employment began a marked decline. Between 1999 and 2007, Moffitt writes, married women's employment fell by about 0.3%, while the figure for single women dropped by 2.9%, or almost ten times as much (unmarried men also lost more jobs than married ones, but the difference was far smaller).

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