Where have all the women's jobs gone?

@CNNMoney April 20, 2012: 6:12 AM ET
Teacher layoffs mean women gained fewer jobs during the recovery.

Teacher layoffs mean women gained fewer jobs during the recovery.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- More jobless Americans are finding work these days, but they are mainly lucky fellas.

The "mancession" has morphed into the "hecovery," leaving women workers largely in the dust. The share of adult women who are employed is lower than it was two years ago, while men have seen an upturn.

"Even though we are seeing some recovery, we have not seen it in a recovery of jobs for women," said Heather Boushey, senior economist at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Mitt Romney, the leading Republican presidential candidate, started trying to capitalize on this statistic last week, telling crowds and TV viewers that women held more than 92% of the jobs lost under President Obama.

Women were generally spared the worst of the recession, accounting for only one-quarter of the jobs lost. Men, on the other hand, were hit hard by the devastation in the construction and manufacturing industries.

But the slow pace of recovery in women's employment has surprised and concerned some experts, who say it's unclear whether there will be a rebound anytime soon.

While the private sector picked up nearly 2.9 million jobs over the course of the recovery, women secured only 23.5% of those positions.

Women gained only 12.3% of the more than 2.3 million total jobs added to the economy during the recovery -- which include both public and private positions --according to the National Women's Law Center.

Much of the blame lies in the steep loss of government jobs, particularly in local school districts, where women predominate. State and local governments were propped up in 2009 and 2010 by Obama's Recovery Act. But the funds largely ran out after that, prompting budgets and payrolls to be slashed.

Women lost 396,000 public sector jobs during the recovery, according to the law center. That's 69.1% of the jobs cut, even though women represented only 57.2% of the public workforce at the end of the recession.

That bleeding has now largely stopped, which is why women's employment has stabilized somewhat in recent months. But governments aren't likely to add lots of jobs anytime soon, said Michael Montgomery, senior U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm, though women should benefit from continued improvement in the economy.

The public sector isn't the only place that has cost women jobs. The manufacturing sector, for instance, has boosted payrolls since the recovery began ... but only for men, according to the Center for American Progress. Same goes for trade, transportation and utilities and for financial services.

The way the recovery has played out has also hurt two segments of female workers -- low income ones who depend on public child care subsidies and older women, said Joan Entmacher, vice president of family economic security at the law center.

The former have suffered from cuts in government aid, leading them to leave their jobs because they have no one to watch their children. The latter have had a harder time finding new employment after they've lost their jobs.

Prolonged unemployment can hit women harder because they often earn and save less, she said.

"They are more economically at risk," Entmacher said. "It's harder for them to get back on their feet because they have fewer resources."

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