One of the most significant innovations in labor market information of the past two decades has been the development of the Local Employment Dynamics (LED) database, a joint venture of the Census Bureau and the states. LED tracks employment by age and gender for all jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with the exception of federal workers. LED employment closely aligns with Employment Security’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) data series.
We can use LED to analyze what happened to employment by age and gender in the recent recession and recovery. The chart below looks at these changes over a five-year period, including the two years of employment decline and the first three years of the recovery.
To make the comparison fair, all data were adjusted for changes in the makeup of the population. For example, employment of those aged 65 and older grew by 35 percent, while population rose by 20 percent. Subtracting the two gives a population-adjusted change of 15 percent in jobs.
The recession was characterized as a “man-cession” by some because men bore the brunt of the job losses. Indeed, male employment fell by 9.8 percent, while female employment dropped by “only” 6.1 percent—almost a four-point differential. What got less attention is that we’ve had a largely “he-covery,” so that five years after the recession began, the job-loss gap closed to only 1 percentage point (-6.6 percent for men, -5.6 percent for women).
When it comes to age, it’s the extremes that stand out. Young people got hammered: employment for 14-18-year-olds plummeted by 35 percent, and for 19-21 year olds, by 16 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, employment soared for those aged 65 and older.
Scott D. Bailey, Regional labor economist, Employment Security Department