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The Great Man-Cession of 2008-2009 Was Real
Oct 18, 2009


Dr. Mark J. Perry

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From the article "The "Man-Cession" of 2008-2009: It's Big, but It's Not Great" by Howard J. Hall, Vice President of the St. Louis Fed:
Despite the sudden interest in the phenomenon, the relative effects of the recession on men and women are not the least bit unusual. At least since the 1969 recession, men have borne the brunt of job losses during recessions, and, compared with previous recessions, men have actually borne a smaller proportion of job losses in the current recession.
Women have a much larger presence in the work force now than between 1969 and 1991; so, a more-relevant comparison is to the 2001 recession.
For that recession, employment peaked in the first quarter of 2001 and bottomed out in the third quarter of 2003, with a total loss of a little more than 2.6 million jobs. Men accounted for 78% of those job losses, just as they have during the current recession. So, in terms of job losses, the current recession has hit men in roughly the same proportion as did the previous recession, but by a much smaller proportion than during earlier recessions.

MP: The charts below were created using monthly data from the BLS for female and male employment.
The first graph shows the male and female job losses from March 2001 (when the recession started) and January 2002 when both male and female bottomed out, shortly after the recession ended in November 2001 (see shaded area). Therefore, this is the period of job losses that is directly associated with the actual 2001 recession, and not the jobless recession period that lasted until mid-June 2003, when the jobless rate peaked. But during the actual recession period (March 2001 to November) and the next two moths (Dec. 2001 and Jan. 2002) when employment levels were fall, it was actually a "she-cession," since 52.4% of the job losses were jobs held by women.
If we next consider the period that includes the 2001 recession and one addition year of the "jobless recovery" through December 2002, we get a period where male job losses were 61.4% of the total, but that is still nothing really close to the male job losses during the 2008-2009 "man-cession," as the next two graphs illustrate.

The graph below captures the first 13 months of the most recent recession, from December 2007 through December 2008, and shows that for that period, male job losses were 84% of the total, vs. only 16% for women. In other words, men lost 5.25 jobs for every one job lost for women. Now that's a real "man-cession." And by December 2008, the male-female jobless rate gap had risen to 1.5%, which was 5 times greater than the maximum male-female jobless rate gap of 0.30% during the 2001 recession, another sign that the "Great Man-Cession" of 2008 was real.

Assuming that the recession ended in June 2009, like many economists are now predicting, the next graph highlights the employment losses by gender from December 2007 and May 2009, to capture the period most likely associated with the most recent recession. Over this period, the job losses for men were 75% of the total, which is still much higher than a) the percent of job male jobs losses during the 2001 recession, b) the percent of job losses during the 2001 recession and the period of "jobless recovery" through end of 2002. Further, by May 2009 the male-female jobless rate gap hit 2.5%, the highest rate ever at that time, and almost 3 times the maximum gap of 0.90% in July 2003 during the jobless recovery following the 2001 recession.

Bottom Line:
At least compared to the 2001 recession, the 2008-2009 was real, historic and unprecedented. And the recent record male-female jobless rate gaps are another indication that something historic and unprecedented happened during the most recent recession.

Finally, it's probably not really a fair to compare job losses by gender during the actual recessionary months of the most recent recession, to the job losses from 2001-2003 than includes both the actual recession period from March 2001 to November 2001 and several more year of data after the recession was over. During the actual recession months of 2001, it was actually more of a "she-cession" than a "man-cession."

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