BUSINESS

Women's employment resilient during recessions, analysis finds

Women's employment during economic recessions is more resilient than men's, even expanding during previous recessions, according to a new analysis by a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics economist.

The share of women's employment during the most recent recession, economist Catherine A. Wood wrote, reached 50% of nonfarm employment for the first time since the federal agency began keeping track in 1964.

Back then, women only held 31.7% of total nonfarm employment. In the decades that followed, women's employment rose steadily but began leveling off in the early 1990s.

Wood's analysis found that job losses during recessions are typically lopsided, with more men losing their jobs than women.

The reason, she explained, is that more men work in goods-producing industries. "Because the nature of employment in the goods-producing industries is more cyclical, these industries have seen periods of job expansion and contraction," she wrote. 

Women, meanwhile, outnumber men in the service-producing industries.

"Historically, the goods-producing industries — manufacturing, construction, and mining and logging — have accounted for the overwhelming majority of job losses," she wrote.

These industries have seen a long-term decline, dropping from 32% of total nonfarm employment in 1969 to only 14% in 2013.

"By contrast, the service-providing industries ... have historically accounted for a much smaller percentage of recessionary job losses and, in some cases, contributed to net job gains during recessions," Wood said. 

During the same time period, the service-providing sector's share of nonfarm employment has grown, jumping from 68% in 1969 to 85% in 2013.

Overall, women's employment reached 68 million last month, surpassing its previous peak of 67.6 million six years ago.  

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