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Women May Outnumber Men in the U.S. Labor Force

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Women May Outnumber Men in the U.S. Labor Force

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With the present trend of increasing mass lay-offs of male workers across the United States, women may soon outnumber men in the workforce for the first time since unemployment records began in 1948. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the global economic crisis has pushed a greater number of men into unemployment—8.8 percent of men as opposed to 7 percent of women.

Seventy two million (59.5 percent) of 121 million U.S. women ages 16 and over now comprise 46.5 percent of the total labor force, and two-thirds of 25 million part-time workers in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that women will account for 49 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between now and 2016.

Oli Scarff/Getty Images
A job seeker browses job listings in San Francisco (April 3, 2009).

In March 2009, the number of unemployed increased to 13.2 million, up from 694,000 in 2008. Approximately 80 percent of all layoffs were male workers.

One reason for the unemployment gap is that construction and manufacturing—fields dominated by men—have been two of the hardest hit workforce sectors. Nine in 10 male construction laborers lost their jobs, as did 7 in 10 male workers in the manufacturing sector. Almost 2.5 million jobs were lost in these two sectors alone (Financial Times).

In contrast, women workers overwhelmingly outnumber men in healthcare and education, two fields considered recession-proof, which has allowed them to hold onto their jobs. Women account for 51 percent of all workers in high-paying professional and management positions, and make up the majority of medical and health services managers, school administrators, teachers, physical therapists and registered nurses, among other professions.

Given that women statistically earn less than men, this trend could inflict even greater financial pain on already struggling families that rely on two incomes to support themselves.

Since December 2007, 5.1 million jobs have been lost, with almost two-thirds (3.3 million) of the decrease occurring in the past five months. Michigan had the highest rate of unemployment at 12 percent, while South Carolina was a close second at 11.5 percent. California ranked third at 10.5 percent.

In at least seven states, the unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent (Bloomberg).

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