Yes, it is a “mancession”, with men losing more jobs than women. Just like all recessions.

The past quarter-century has been an extraordinarily stable period for the economy (as we accumulated debt to maintain growth).  With only two recessions since 1982, both mild and brief, we’ve forgotten what recessions are like.   So we get analysis like this:

Mancession Continues: Male-Female Jobless Rate at Historic Levels, Higher Than Last Two Recessions“, Mark J. Perry (Professor of Economics at Michigan U ), posted at his blog Carpe Diem, 2 October 2009 — Hat Tip to the Instapundit.  Excerpt:

The current male-female jobless rate gap of 2.6% is three times higher than the maximum gap during the last recession and more than two times higher than the peak gap of 1.1% following the 1990-1991 recession. These facts about the male-female jobless rate gap are not only incontrovertible, they are truly unprecedented and historic.

They are neither unprecedented nor historic

Men routinely suffer greater job losses than women (as Perry notes).  But just as this is the worst labor downturn since the 1930’s, so the men-women gap is the largest since the 1930’s.  But it is not worse than during the 1930s, although we have only unreliable data other than the 1930 and 1940 censuses (for more about this see “Calculating the Unemployment Rate“, The Liscio Report, 23 January 2009)

For a detailed analysis, see

  1. The Unemployment Gender Gap During the Current Recession“, Aysegul Sahin et al, Federal Reserve Bank of NY,
  2. The Labor Market during the Great Depression and the Current Recession“, Linda Levine, Congressional Research Service, 19 June 2009


(1)  The Unemployment Gender Gap During the Current Recession“, Aysegul Sahin et al, Federal Reserve Bank of NY — Abstract:

The condition of the U.S. labor market has been deteriorating rapidly during the current recession. Payroll employment declined by close to 7 million and the unemployment rate increased to 9.7%, the highest level since 1983. Interestingly, a breakdown of the employment figures shows that, the current recession has had a more adverse effect on men than women. Since the start of the recession, the unemployment rate for men has increased much more than for women. To understand the underlying forces behind these differences we make use of the labor market flows data, specifically the flows in and out of unemployment. We document that the disproportionate increase in the unemployment inflow rate for men caused this discrepancy. A close look at the sectoral composition of job losses reveals that men are more concentrated in the sectors that were hit hardest by the recession. Furthermore, compared to previous recessions, we find that more men have flown into unemployment from nonparticipation contributing to men’s higher unemployment rate.

 (2)  The Labor Market during the Great Depression and the Current Recession“, Linda Levine, Congressional Research Service, 19 June 2009.  Here are 3 brief excerpts from this data-rich report.


A labor market analysis of the Great Depression finds that many workers were unemployed for much longer than one year. Of those fortunate to have jobs, many experienced cutbacks in hours (i.e., involuntary part-time employment). Men typically were more adversely affected than women. This was especially true for older and black men at a time when age- and race-based job discrimination were not unlawful and when occupational shifts in labor demand were operating against them.

Demographic and Occupational Characteristics of the Great Depression

The percentage of the working-age population employed fell substantially between 1930 and 1940, as shown in Table 1. Virtually all of the decrease occurred among men, with the proportion of the male population with jobs dropping 10 percentage points to 67.5%.

… The varying impact of technological developments by occupation also helps to explain the differing pattern of job loss across gender and age groups. Increased mechanization and the advent of the assembly line permitted substitution of semiskilled workers for skilled workers, which operated to the advantage of women and younger men compared to older men.

… The varying impact of technological developments by occupation also helps to explain the differing pattern of job loss across gender and age groups. Increased mechanization and the advent of the assembly line permitted substitution of semiskilled workers for skilled workers, which operated to the advantage of women and younger men compared to older men.7 As shown in Table 2, the proportion of workers in skilled occupations fell from 12.9% to 11.7% between 1930 and 1940, with the entire decrease occurring among men. Older men in particular were displaced by mechanization because skilled workers more often were age 45 and older.8 In contrast, few women worked in skilled occupations (0.8% in 1930) while many more worked in the growing semiskilled occupations (23.7% in 1930).

In part because mechanization also could substitute for physical strength, the demand for unskilled workers fell as well. This, too, adversely affected men to a greater extent than women because men more often were unskilled farm and nonfarm (construction and factory) laborers whose jobs could be replaced by machinery. (See Table 2)  Black men in particular were susceptible to the shift in demand away from unskilled jobs because the occupations of farm and nonfarm laborers accounted for 43% of employed black men compared to 17% of employed white men. In contrast, unskilled women primarily were servants whose jobs could not as readily be supplanted by machinery.

Women also fared better than men during the Depression due to the increased demand for workers in white-collar occupations (e.g., professional and clerical workers). Growth in whitecollar occupations was especially pronounced among clerical and related workers, which, as seen in Table 2, was the single largest employment category for women. In contrast, men’s concentration in the farm operator category meant that they suffered most directly the consequences of the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy. Black men were especially vulnerable: farm owners and tenants accounted for 21% of black men’s employment in 1940 compared to 14% of white men’s employment.

Similarities between the Great Depression and today’s recession

The greater concentration of men in cyclically sensitive industries and occupations contributes to the more adverse impact of recessions on male members of the labor force. One means of measuring this differential effect is to examine the trend in employment by gender.

During the Great Depression, the number of employed women increased while the number of employed men decreased. In 1940, men accounted for

  • 94.3% of persons employed in the mining industry,
  • 98.3% of those in the construction industry, and
  • 78.0% of workers in the manufacturing industry.

In that year, men also composed

  • 97.9% of craft workers,
  • 96.8% of nonfarm laborers, and
  • 75.2% of operatives and related workers.

Seven decades later, men remain the dominant jobholders in the goods-producing sector: in 2008, men accounted for

  • 87.2% of employment in mining,
  • 90.3% in construction, and
  • 70.7% in manufacturing.

Last year, men also composed

  • 97.5% of workers in construction and extraction occupations (e.g., craft workers, laborers) and
  • 70.3% workers in production occupations (e.g., machine operators, assemblers).

Partly as a result, men’s employment overall fell precipitously — by 5.4% (4.3 million) — from 78.3 million in December 2007 to 74.0 million in May 2009.

Despite their somewhat increased presence over time in these industries and occupations, women experienced substantially less job loss than men during the current recession. The number of employed women fell 2.2% (1.5 million) from 68.0 million in December 2007 to 66.5 million in May 2009.

The comparatively worse impact of recessions on male employment is not limited to the Great Depression and the recession that began in December 2007. According to an analysis conducted in 1993 of data from the Current Employment Statistics program, which began to collect data by gender in 1964, most of those who lost jobs in the five recessions that occurred between December 1969 and March 1991 were men. The researchers found that although women lost jobs in the last two of the five recessions covered by their analysis, men lost 9 to 19 times more jobs than women in the July 1990-March 1991 and July 1981-November 1982 recessions, respectively. They concluded that

[t]he chief explanation for the vast differences in employment loss between women and men in recessions concerns the proportions of jobs held by women in the various industries…. [B]ecause the goods-producing industries bear most of the job loss during recessions and because employment in this sector is heavily male, men lose the great majority of jobs in recessions. The industry divisions that fare best during recessions, services and government, have a high concentration of women, partially accounting for women’s relative job stability.”

The more negative effect of the Great Depression and recent recessions on male members of the labor force also is discernible from unemployment statistics. As was the case during the Depression, unemployed men as a proportion of the male labor force exceeded unemployed women as a proportion of the female labor during the last three recessions.

  • At the end of the 1981-1982 recession in November, the unemployment rate among men measured 11.1% compared to 10.2% among women;
  • at the end of the 1990-1991 recession in March, the male unemployment rate was 7.2% compared to a female unemployment rate of 6.3%; and
  • at the end of the 2001 recession in November, the unemployment rate for men measured 5.7% compared to 5.4% for women.
  • Similarly, in May 2009, 17 months into the latest recession, men’s unemployment rate was 10.5% as opposed to women’s unemployment rate of 8.0%.

Articles about the changing balance of men and women 


  1. The Mancession“, Catherine Rampell, blog of the New York Times,10 August 2008
  2. Women gain as men lose jobs“, USA Today, 2 September 2009

On the FM website:

  1. Women dominating the ranks of college graduates – What’s the effect on America?, 7 July 2009
  2. A better answer to “why women outperform men in college?”, 8 July 2009
  3. Women as soldiers – an update, 25 August 2009


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11 thoughts on “Yes, it is a “mancession”, with men losing more jobs than women. Just like all recessions.”

  1. Pingback: Yes, it is a “mancession”. Just like all recessions. « Fabius Maximus | Michigan Not Mexico

  2. Man in need of money : “I’m not taking a stupid dirty poorly paid part time job like that ”
    Woman in need of money : ” When do I start ? “.

  3. Men have always been the “ant workers” of our species. Men build roads, schools, brigdes and fight wars. It has always been like that. For that reason men are build stronger, but we also don’t last long, we are not supposed to last long and we are easily disposed of. We are – so to speak – cannon-fodder. Thats the sad truth about our gender. But it should also be a reminder for the feminists, who claims men only have busied themselves oppressing women the last 10.000 years. The primary victim of men has always been men. Men died in battles, worked themselves to death or – when life became to hard – drank themselves to death.

    I already hear voices that this crisis is going to be the turning-point in the gender relations in the Western World since male-based capitalism has failed and the women will have to take charge for more “adult” leadership. Iceland – which has been hit pretty hard by the financial meltdown – might lead the way in this new trend since the lesbian Johanna Sigurdardottir became PM back in February. I seriously doubt this point of view. While female influence might be on the rise in societies I highly doubt we would witness the rise of a matriarchy. Does anyone honestly believe that a Hillary Clinton or a Sarah Palin is a better leader than Barack Obama or John McCain. Anyone?

    If we ever were to witness the rise of matriarchy anywhere I would predict the result could easily be a disaster like the one in Zimbabwe, where the black freedom fighter Robert Mugabe became the dictator Robert Mugabe. While anyone deserves equal rights political power has a tendency of corrupting people – no matter your gender, skin color or ethnicity. The idea that a matriarchy would lead to a perfect Utopia or that you are a better leader because you are a woman is simply BS. But I am afraid we might hear a lot of those ideas in the coming years when people realize that the old order simply doesn’t work any longer.

  4. I feel so much better now…
    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s not good news. File this under “never ask for the blindfold” kind of news.

  5. There are interesting similarities between western female psychology and Asian psychology. Since this century will be dominated by Asian growth, it may well be smart thing to let more women into positions of power in the west.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Please explain, or provide links. This sounds fascinating!

  6. Robert wrote, “Does anyone honestly believe that a Hillary Clinton or a Sarah Palin is a better leader than Barack Obama or John McCain. Anyone?”

    Time may ultimately prove that female heads of state – cf a President Clinton or President Palin – are as ineffectual, incompetent and corrupt as their male counterparts, but so far, they haven’t been tested in that role. Seems a bit early to pass judgment, then, don’t you agree? I am not arguing in favor of a matriarchal society; we have much to lose by discarding the masculine virtues (indeed have already lost much), merely that skill, experience, values and character are all. I want competent, strong leadership in Washington, and care little whether the CIC wears pumps or wingtips as long as the job gets done.
    Fabius Maximus replies: There have been so many women heads of state and prime ministers in history — and in the modern era. Don’t we have a large enough sample to draw conclusions? England seems to have done better under its Queens than Kings, for example.

  7. If you think of Elizabeth 1 and 2, Victoria , MRS Mugabe and Maggie Thatcher , they acted rather like good mothers – mothers not of babies but of teenagers .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thatcher gave quite a spanking to Argentina.

  8. Pingback: Women During the Great Depression

  9. Can’t believe everything one reads on the internet of course but this might be worth a look regarding the response of some/many(?) younger Japanese males to their recession: “The rise of ‘herbivore man’ in Japan“, JWT Anxiety Index, 26 May 2009.

    I’d personally expect American males to gravitate towards alcoholism/substance abuse though?
    FM reply: Lots of odd stories appearing in the western press about Japanese men. Or stories about odd Japanese men. This should not surprise. A post-reproductal society need not look much like traditional societies. Who cares? They’re just a self-eliminating dot in the overall scope of human history.

  10. Russia would seem to have a high potential to “self-eliminate”. Depends on them rethinking their attitude to immigration very, very quickly I’d guess. With China being an obvious enough source of immigrants. At least until China hits its own demographic issues.

    Some interesting thoughts bouncing around re that – Might Russia and China learn to play together really nicely to their mutual benefit? It would seem to be a commonsense solution – Although some pretty big national egos would have to rethink their positions. And in the case of Russia’s leadership, they are still pretty dented egos.

    I could also see a post-reproductive Japan having a useful (if declining?) role in such a triumvirate. Wonder to what extent the core national values of the three align nowadays?
    FM note: For more about Russia’s demographic crash, see “Demography and development in Russia“, UN Development Program, 28 April 2008. One of the many insightful reports listed on the FM reference page Demography – studies & reports.

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