Is This a “Man-cession”?

The word “man-cession” has recently popped up in the blogosphere. Some bloggers have dubbed the recession a “man-cession”  because men have experienced a steeper rise in unemployment than women. In California, the unemployment rate for men hit 8.8 percent in March 2009, up by 3.1 percentage points from the same month of the prior year, while women’s unemployment rate rose by 2.2 percentage points, reaching 7.7 percent in March 2009. These figures represent the average unemployment rate for men and women during the 12 months ending in March 2009 and therefore are considerably lower than the overall unemployment rate reported last week, which reflects only the month of March.

Underemployment is also on the rise, and national data show that men are more likely than women to be underemployed (comparable data for California are not available). More than a third of US men working less than 35 hours per week (36.0 percent) were so-called “involuntary part-time workers” in March, meaning either that they usually work full-time, but had their hours cut, or that they wanted to work full-time, but couldn’t find full-time jobs. In contrast, one out of five US women (20.2 percent) were working part-time involuntarily in March.

Men have been disproportionately affected by the downturn largely because they tend to work in sectors of the economy hardest hit by the recession. The male-dominated construction sector in California lost more than 150,000 jobs between March 2008 and March 2009 – an 18.4 percent decline and the largest percentage decline of the major sectors. California’s manufacturing sector, which also employs a larger share of men, experienced the second-largest decline in jobs during this period – 7.0 percent (100,600 jobs). Women, on the other hand, are more likely to work in educational and health services – the one major sector that has continued to add jobs during the downturn.

Although unemployment has increased more for men during the past year, men are still much more likely than women to be working. Approximately two out of three of California’s working-age men (67.7 percent) were employed in March 2009, compared to just more than half of working-age women (53.4 percent).

— Alissa Anderson