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116 Monthly Lab. Rev. 26 (1993)
Women and Jobs in Recessions: 1969-92

handle is hein.journals/month116 and id is 710 raw text is: Women and jobs
in recessions: 1969-92
The probability of losing one's job
because of a recession is very different for women
and men, but in the last two recessions,
gender differences were reduced

William Goodman,
Stephen Antczak,
Laura Freeman
William Goodman, Stephen
Antczak, and Laura
Freeman are economists in
the Office of Employment
and Unemployment
Statistics, Bureau of Labor

ome recent statements in the media reveal a
belief that women lose jobs in recessions
before men do, and in proportionately
larger numbers.' These perceptions are not sup-
ported by the facts. This article discusses employ-
ment of women in recessions, and the sharp differ-
ences between the latest recession and earlier
It is true that trends in women's employment
during recessions are quite different from those for
men, but men, not women, experience the bulk of
net job loss, even though men and women now
hold jobs in roughly equal numbers. In each of the
last five recessions,2 men lost at least 9 times as
many jobs as women did. This fact is primarily
attributable to the distribution of male and female
employees in the various industries and the degree
of cyclical job loss in each industry during reces-
sions. The goods-producing industries, which em-
ploy large numbers of men, sustain the greatest
job losses during downturns. Certain service-pro-
ducing industries that employ primarily women
actually continue to grow in recessions.
During the latest (1990-91) recession, how-
ever, the discrepancy between men and women
was sharply reduced, reflecting in part the unusual
and, in some cases, serious declines in certain ser-
vice-producing industries. (See chart 1.)
Employment: the facts
The Current Employment Statistics survey of
businesses (which estimates the number of U.S.

payroll jobs) provides evidence that men experi-
enced the bulk of job losses in all recessions since
1964, when complete employment estimates by
sex were first produced.' In the first 3 of these 5
most recent recessions, the number of women on
payrolls in fact rose (although, of course, indi-
vidual women lost jobs), while the number of men
losing jobs far exceeded the number hired. (See
table 1.)
In the last two recessions, women did lose
jobs on a net basis, although men lost 9 to 19
times as many. (See table 1.) The unusual losses
for women in the two recessions had quite dif-
ferent causes. In the recession of 1981-82,
women lost about 135,000 net jobs, largely re-
flecting a decline of about 170,000 jobs held by
women in government, as Federal aid to State
and local governments was reduced; meanwhile,
the number of private-sector jobs held by women
increased slightly. In the recession of the early
1990's, women lost about 125,000 net payroll
jobs, with women's employment in government
increasing while jobs held by women in the pri-
vate sector decreased by approximately 145,000.
The 1990's recession brought the greatest pri-
vate-sector loss of jobs for women in more than
20 years, as several important service-producing
industries were much weaker than in preceding
The 1990-91 recession also was unusual in
that a net decline in jobs continued for 11 months
after the official March 1991 ending point of the
recession. To fully understand the differing im-

26 Monthly Labor Review  July 1993

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