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Women Sharing in Slow Job Growth, but Full Recovery Is a Long Way Off

(updated August 2013)[1]

The deep recession that began in December 2007 cost workers nearly 7.5 million jobs before it officially ended in June 2009.  From the start of the recovery in June 2009 to July 2013, the economy added almost 5.5 million net jobs,[2] but needs to add millions more to accommodate the growth in the population since December 2007.  The pace of the recovery has picked up for women after largely leaving them behind at the outset.  However, heavy public sector job losses continue to slow the recovery for women. 

Key Facts

  • Women gained back nearly 95 percent of the jobs they lost in the recession and men gained back nearly 65 percent, from the start of the recovery to July 2013.
  • Women’s public sector job losses wiped out almost 19 percent of their private sector job gains from the start of the recovery to July 2013.
  • Adult women’s overall unemployment rate decreased from 7.6 percent at the start of the recovery to 6.5 percent in July 2013 and adult men’s dropped from 9.9 percent to 7.0 percent.  Unemployment rates for both men and women are about one-and-a-half times higher than at the start of the recession.
  • About four in ten jobless adult women and men were unable to find work after more than six months of searching in July 2013.

Women’s job gains over the course of the recovery were held back by public sector losses.

  • The economy added almost 5.5 million jobs from the start of the recovery to July 2013; women gained over 2.0 million jobs while men gained almost 3.5 million jobs. Between June 2009 and July 2013, women gained back 94.6 percent of the jobs they lost in the recession, while men gained back 64.6 percent.[3]
  • The private sector picked up nearly 6.2 million jobs from the start of the recovery to July 2013; women gained nearly 2.5 million jobs while men gained over 3.7 million jobs. Between June 2009 and July 2013, women gained back more than the number of private sector jobs they lost in the recession, while men gained back 69.1 percent.[4]
  • Heavy job losses in public sector employment have slowed the recovery, especially for women.  From the start of the recovery through July 2013, women lost 458,000 public sector jobs.  Men lost 275,000 public sector jobs over the same period.[5]  Women’s public sector losses have wiped out 18.6 percent of their private sector gains during the recovery.  For men this figure is 7.4 percent.[6]   

Job change in the recovery 

Women’s and men’s unemployment dropped since the start of the recovery - men’s dropped dramatically.

  • Between June 2009 and July 2013, adult women’s overall unemployment rate decreased from 7.6 percent to 6.5 percent and adult men’s overall unemployment rate dropped from 9.9 percent to 7.0 percent. [7] 
  • Unemployment rates for both adult men and women were about one-and-a-half times higher in July 2013 than they were at the beginning of the recession in December 2007.[8] 

Unemployment for many vulnerable groups remained high during the recovery.

  • Unemployment rates for adult African-American women and men, adult Hispanic women and men, and single mothers have generally been higher than for adult women or men overall throughout the recession and recovery.
  • Unemployment rates decreased between June 2009 and July 2013 for adult African-American women (11.8 percent to 10.5 percent), adult African-American men (16.3 percent to 12.5 percent), adult Hispanic women (11.5 percent to 9.0 percent), adult Hispanic men (10.7 percent to 7.7 percent), and single mothers (11.7 percent to 10.5 percent).[9]
  • Unemployment rates for nearly all of these groups were about one-and-a-half times higher in July 2013 than they were at the beginning of the recession in December 2007. The exception is for adult Hispanic men, whose rates were 1.3 times higher in July 2013 than they were in December 2007.[10]   

Long-term unemployment is substantially higher than at the start of the recovery.

  • The percentage of jobless workers who were still looking for work after more than six months of unemployment increased substantially since the start of the recovery, to 39.0 percent for adult women in July 2013, an increase of 9.7 percentage points, and to 40.6 percent for adult men in July 2013, an increase of 9.9 percentage points.[11]
  • In July, over 4.2 million Americans were still looking for work after more than six months.[12]

The economy still has a long way to go. Overall, just over 73 percent of the jobs lost during the recession have been regained in the recovery.  If additional population growth is taken into account, the jobs gap is even larger.  The Hamilton Project estimates that if we gained jobs at a pace of 162,000 per month (the job growth in July), it would take until 2024 to fill the jobs gap.[13]  The data highlight the need for policy makers to invest in job creation for women and men and to reject further cuts in funding for public services that would mean more job losses and increased hardship, especially for women and their families.




[1] Revisions to the July version of this analysis reflect both the incorporation of new data each month, and revisions by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to previously reported data.

[2] NWLC calculations from U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Employment Statistics Survey  (hereinafter “BLS Current Employment Survey”), Table B-5: Employment of women on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted, available at http://bls.gov/ces/cesbtabs.htm (last visited Aug. 2, 2013).  

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] NWLC calculations from U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (hereinafter “BLS Current Population Survey”), Table A-1: Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age, seasonally adjusted, available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm (last visited Aug. 2, 2013).  All adult unemployment rates are for individuals 20 and older.

[8] Ibid.

[9] NWLC calculations from BLS Current Population Survey, Table A-2: Employment status of the civilian population by race, sex and age, seasonally adjusted, Table A-3: Employment status of the Hispanic or Latino population by sex and age, not seasonally adjusted, and Table A-10: Selected Unemployment Indicators, seasonally adjusted, available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm (last visited Aug. 2, 2013).  Rates for Hispanic adults and single mothers are not seasonally adjusted.

[10] Ibid.

[11] NWLC calculations from BLS Current Population Survey, Table A-36: Unemployed persons by age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, marital status, and duration of unemployment, not seasonally adjusted, July 2009, available at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ee/archive.htm (last visited Aug. 2, 2013) and Table A-36: Unemployed persons by age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, marital status, and duration of unemployment, not seasonally adjusted, available at http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea36.htm  (last visited Aug. 2, 2013).

[12] BLS Current Population Survey, Table A-12: Unemployed persons by duration of unemployment, available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t12.htm (last visited Aug. 2, 2013).  Figure includes all individuals 16 and older and is seasonally adjusted.

[13] The Hamilton Project, Closing the Jobs Gap, calculator available at: http://www.hamiltonproject.org/jobs_gap/. The “jobs gap” measured by the Hamilton Project is the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while also absorbing the people who enter the labor force each month.