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February Jobs Data Show Women Slowly Beginning to Share in Recovery

February's employment data are out and the good jobs news that started 2012 continued last month, according to NWLC's number crunching. The newly released jobs data show that February was similar to January – women gained just over one-third of the more than 200,000 jobs added in each of the last two months. However, the overall unemployment rate held steady and there were no declines in the unemployment rates of adult women and men. In fact, adult women's unemployment rate still remains slightly above where it was at the start of the recovery in June 2009, while men's unemployment rate has declined more than two percentage points over the same time.

Here are the highlights from our analysis:

  • Unemployment rates for adult women and men were unchanged last month. The lack of a change in the numbers means that adult women's unemployment rate remained slightly above where it was when the recovery started in June 2009, while adult men's unemployment dropped 2.2 percentage points in the same time frame.

Women's unemployment flat in recovery

  • Women gained just over 1 out of every 10 jobs added to the economy since the recovery started. This number is up a little bit from last month, yet still far from where it should be to be proportional to their share of the losses. Women gained 253,000 jobs out of the nearly 2.2 million jobs added to the economy between June 2009 and February 2012. This is because women bore the biggest brunt (nearly 70 percent) of public sector layoffs in the recovery, but shared in less than a quarter of the private sector gains.

Percentage of jobs gained in the recovery

  • Unemployment rates for vulnerable groups have remained persistently higher than for women or men overall throughout the recession and the recovery. In February, black women (12.4 percent), black men (14.3 percent), Hispanic women (11.0 percent), Hispanic men (10.4 percent), and single mothers (11.7 percent) all had unemployment rates substantially higher than the national average.
  • More than 5.4 million people are still looking for work after more than six months of unemployment. This figure continues to drop by small numbers each month, but is still too high. Adult women's long-term unemployment rate was 44 percent this month and just over 40 percent of unemployed adult men fell into this category as well.

February was another month of fairly positive news, but it's clear women still have a long way to go in the recovery. Policy makers should focus on creating and preserving jobs for women and men and take care not to undermine the recovery that is underway. Deep budget cuts to public services would slow economic growth, cause more job losses in the public sector, and slash services urgently needed by millions of Americans who are still struggling to get back on their feet.

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