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Modest Job Gains for Women Leave Single Mothers, African-American Women Behind, NWLC Analysis Shows

December 02, 2011

Analysis by the National Women’s Law Center of data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that women gained slightly more than half of the jobs added in November 2011, and their unemployment rate declined. However, women still hold fewer jobs and have a slightly higher unemployment rate than they did at the start of the recovery in June 2009.

“Even with the modest improvements in today’s jobs data, women still have a long way to go before they see a real recovery,” said Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security at the National Women’s Law Center. “Since the recovery officially began in June 2009, women have lost 46,000 net jobs, while the economy has added over 1.2 million jobs. Women’s unemployment rate declined last month, but at 7.8 percent it is still slightly higher than it was at the start of the recovery, when it stood at 7.7 percent. Even more disturbing, unemployment increased for two especially vulnerable groups of women—single mothers and African-American women.”

Women gained 65,000 (54 percent) of the 120,000 jobs added in November. In the private sector, women gained half of the 140,000 jobs added, with all of the gains coming in the service sector—primarily in private education and health; professional and business; leisure and hospitality; and retail. The public sector lost 20,000 jobs last month; women lost 25 percent of them. During the recovery as a whole, women suffered a disproportionate majority (66 percent) of the public sector job losses.

In November, over 13 million Americans were out of work. The unemployment rate decreased—but more workers stopped actively looking for work and dropped out of the labor force than gained jobs last month. The overall unemployment rate in November was 8.6 percent, down from 9.0 percent in October 2011 and 9.5 percent in June 2009. Women’s unemployment rate of 7.8 percent in November was down from 8.0 percent in October 2011 but up slightly from 7.7 percent in June 2009.  Men’s unemployment rate in November was 8.3 percent, down from 8.8 percent in October 2011 and 9.9 percent in June 2009.

The declines in unemployment in November were not shared by some vulnerable groups whose rates, already well above the overall rate, increased last month. The unemployment rate in November for single mothers was 12.4 percent, up from 12.3 percent in October 2011 and 11.7 percent in June 2009. African-American women’s unemployment rate in November was 12.9 percent, up from 12.6 percent in October 2011 and 11.7 percent in June 2009.  African-American men’s unemployment rate in November was 16.5 percent, up from 16.2 percent in October 2011 and 16.3 percent in June 2009.

In November, over 5.6 million Americans were still looking for work after more than six months. Nearly half of all jobless men (47.5 percent) and women (46.2 percent) were long-term unemployed.  For long-term jobless workers, federal emergency unemployment insurance benefits supplement state unemployment insurance benefits, which generally last for 26 weeks or less. In previous recessions, Congress has never allowed these programs to expire when unemployment was higher than 7.2 percent.  But even though unemployment is expected to remain above 8.0 percent through 2012, Congress has yet to extend these programs, which expire at the end of this month.

“Millions of women and men are desperate to go back to work. But the jobs just aren’t there,” Entmacher said. “This sobering reality demands action by Congress on job creation and other help for struggling families. But the priority for Senate conservatives has been to protect millionaires and billionaires from a modest tax increase. It’s time for Congress to put struggling families first.”

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