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Slow Recovery Left Women Behind in 2010

Unemployment data released today show a slight improvement for most groups in December 2010 from the previous month’s numbers, but examination of historical data shows that 2010 annual average unemployment rates mark historic highs for several vulnerable groups and overall, any 2010 job growth largely been left women behind.

The data show that the unemployment rate for women rose during 2010 while men’s unemployment rate declined. The unemployment rate for women increased from 7.8 percent in January 2010 to 8.1 percent in December 2010. The unemployment rate for men decreased from 10 percent in January 2010 to 9.4 percent in December 2010.

For some, employment trends in 2010 were even more ominous:

  • The 12.3 percent average annual unemployment rate for single mothers in 2010 is the highest average annual rate for this group since data have been recorded.
  • The average annual unemployment rates in 2010 for African-American women (12.8 percent), African-American men (17.3 percent), Hispanic women (11.4 percent), and Hispanic men (11.7 percent) represent the highest average annual rates for each of these groups in at least 25 years.
  • Average unemployment for these vulnerable groups was even higher than the 9.8 percent annual average unemployment rate for men overall, which also represents an historic high.

During the recession (defined as December 2007 – June 2009), men suffered 71 percent of the total job losses. However, during the first six months of the recovery, men and women lost a similar number of jobs, which resulted in men accounting for two-thirds of all lost jobs between December 2007 and the end of 2009. But as the pace of the recovery quickened in 2010, women’s job gains slowed substantially: of the 1.11 million jobs added to the economy between January and December 2010, only 120,000 — just 10.8 percent — went to women.

A large driver for women’s extremely minimal gains in employment stems from the heavy job losses in the public sector, where women represent 57 percent of the labor force but lost a disproportionate 86 percent of the 220,000 jobs lost during 2010.

As Congress and the Administration prepare for the upcoming release of the President’s budget, they should recognize that the nation’s most crucial priorities in the short term should be to create jobs and promote a sustainable recovery. The proposed budget cuts could jeopardize the recovery and inflict further harm on the women and families who fall victim to this economic downturn.

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