Recession and recovery: employment shifts by gender

In his March 7 blog post, Scott Bailey began a conversation about demographic shifts that have characterized Washington’s recession and recovery. Initially, men bore the brunt of job losses, but then saw a disproportionate return to work during the recovery.


Much of the gender disparity can be explained by looking at staffing patterns within different industries. The federal Longitudinal Employment Dynamics (LED) database can be used to identify which industries employ more men compared to those that employ more women. Two of the most male-dominated industries in Washington in 2008 were construction and manufacturing. Educational and health services and “other services” were characterized by female-dominant workforces.


Knowing this, we can look at historical industry data to help tell the story.

The graph below illustrates change in employment by industry during the jobs recession (February 2008 to February 2010) and recovery (February 2010 to January 2014). Blue bars represent change in employment during the recession, and orange bars represent change from the depth of the recession to the present.


This particular recession took its toll on goods-producing industries to a greater extent than it did on service providers. In Washington state, the two industries that shed the largest number of jobs were construction and manufacturing. These industries also suffered the largest losses proportionally. Construction employment fell by nearly 32 percent and manufacturing by nearly 14 percent.

Both were (and continue to be) male-dominated industries. In contrast, some female-dominated industries (notably education and health services) actually continued to add jobs – slowly but surely – during the recession and into the recovery.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman is Employment Security’s regional economist for Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.


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