Job losses hitting men harder than women

NEW YORK Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:59am EST

Joseph Sullivan fills out a form at the Verdugo Jobs Center, a partnership with the California Employment Development Department, in Glendale, California November 7, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Joseph Sullivan fills out a form at the Verdugo Jobs Center, a partnership with the California Employment Development Department, in Glendale, California November 7, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The economic crisis is hitting men much harder than women in the workplace, largely because male-dominated industries like construction and transportation are bearing the brunt of job losses, figures show.

Women, meanwhile, dominate sectors that are still growing, like government and healthcare, experts said.

"It's men that have taken the hit," said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. "It's been an overwhelmingly male phenomena."

Four-fifths of the 2.74 million people who lost their jobs between November 2007 and November 2008 were men, Sum said.

The biggest losses came in construction, where men comprise 87 percent of the work force, he said. Large losses also came in manufacturing and wholesale trade, where men make up more than two-thirds of the work force, he said.

"Males were dominant in sectors that were taking a bad hit," he said. "It's men and the blue-collar jobs. It's overwhelming."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men's employment as a ratio of the population dropped by 2.7 percent, while the ratio among women's dropped 0.8 percent from December 2007 to December 2008. The unemployment rate among men rose to 7.9 percent from 5.0, while among women, it rose to 6.4 percent from 4.8 percent, the agency said.

The gap between men's and women's unemployment is the highest since 1983, said Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress.

"The recession started with the collapse of the housing bubble," Boushey said. "Clearly we've seen significant layoffs in the construction industry and other sectors, and that really has been driving this problem."

Meanwhile, women are strongly represented in sectors that are still growing, experts noted.

Health and education sectors -- where three-quarters of workers are women -- added 536,000 jobs, Sum said.

Women office workers, like receptionists and clerical workers, have suffered losses. The sector, more than 70 percent female, has lost about 800,000 jobs, Sum said.

Women accounted for 102,000 of the 134,000 lost in the financial sector, Boushey said. But job loss in that industry has been relatively small, compared to manufacturing jobs, she said.

Women may see more job losses ahead in the financial sector, where they hold about 59 percent of jobs, Sum said.

"They're just beginning to lay off," he said. "I expect to see more business-related losses in the months ahead."

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