'Manly' jobs aren't coming back

November 21, 2013: 3:33 AM ET
manly jobs
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The recovery needs to man up already.

Women have regained all the jobs they lost during the financial crisis, but men are still lagging behind.

After losing more than 6 million jobs, men have gained only about 70% of them back, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So what's the hold-up?

First, men lost more jobs than women to begin with, so they have more ground to gain back.

Meanwhile, most of the missing jobs come from just two male-dominated industries: construction and manufacturing.

They're barely recovering, whereas sectors populated with a lot more women -- like education, leisure, hospitality and health care --have all been growing more rapidly.

Where have all the good men gone?

Construction workers were the single hardest hit group in the recession, accounting for nearly a quarter of all job losses in the economy. In 2010, their unemployment rate surged to 25%.

Now, it's much lower -- around 9%, but it's not because construction workers are getting jobs. Roughly 1 million of them appear to have either switched industries or dropped out of the labor force altogether, according to BLS.

"Unemployed construction workers have left the industry, either to go back to school, retire or maybe leave the country. They're no longer sitting at home waiting for a contractor to call them," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors.

He calls them the "1 million missing men."

Manufacturing has a similar problem. After years of a hiring drought, factories are slowly starting to bring some jobs back, but they're also complaining that they can't find enough skilled workers.

That's strange, considering the sector cut more than 2 million jobs since 2007. Why aren't all these unemployed factory workers jumping at the chance to work again?

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As the industry has become more technologically advanced, the main skill sets have changed, said Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.

"The people who are being hired are not necessarily the same people who were let go during the recession," he said.

The good news is, the job losses have largely stopped in both industries. The bad news is, no one expects these positions to come back anytime soon.

"The construction industry would love to be operating at the same level as 2007 or 2006, but it's going to be extremely difficult to get back there," Simonson said. He predicts the industry will add back about 200,000 to 300,000 jobs in the next year.

At that rate, it will take at least six more years to get back to the industry's 2006 peak for jobs.

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Similarly, economists don't expect manufacturing jobs to return to pre-recession levels until 2020, or even later.

And forget about ever getting back to the heyday for factory jobs in the 1980s. Back then, manufacturing accounted for about 20% of all jobs in the country. Now it accounts for less than 9%.

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