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As Women Lose Ground in Latest Round of Jobs Numbers, Can We Stop Talking About the "Mancession"?

The recent jobs report shows an uptick for female unemployment. So much for the ‘mancession’!

Jennifer, a Pittsburgh public school teacher, is one of those women you remember from the best of your grade school days. She’s empathetic and enthusiastic. Her large brown eyes flash with keen intelligence. She loves her fourth-grade students, and laughs at the idea of ‘productivity experts’ coming in to tell her how to do her job and measure student progress. “Each child is different,” she insists. “How is an accountant going to measure a special needs student who gained the confidence to raise his hand in class this year?”

When our conversation turns to teachers and their job security, Jennifer’s face darkens. “We teachers — we call ourselves the ‘bottom-feeders’. Decisions are made all around us that we have no control over. Every time someone is laid off, we all put in more hours to make up the difference. It’s exhausting. And we never know who will be the next to go.” Jennifer has something to worry about. By the start of the next school year, she could very well be out of a job.

The term ‘mancession’ popped up in discussions of a 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed a greater job loss for men than for women at the outset of the Great Recession. Sensing cultural jitters over this finding, the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry  seized the moment, drumming up outrage about an ‘unprecedented’ gender gap favoring women by 2 percentage points. Quelle horreur! On New Deal 2.0, historian Alice O’Connor  challenged this conclusion, noting that the gap was already closing in 2010 as pink slips in manufacturing and male-dominated sectors slowed, while those in female-dominated professions like education and human services started coming fast and furious. In October 2010, O’Connor explained that the real picture of how how the downturn impacted men and women is far more complicated than Perry let on:

“More fine-grained analyses of the data… show considerable differences in the impact of male job loss across lines of class, race, age, and region; not all men have been affected equally by the downturn, nor women for that matter, suggesting at the very least that there is more to the so-called gender gap than meets the eye. Nor has the Great Recession shown any “favor” to women when it comes to wage losses and poverty rates, both of which are on the rise. And historical experience reminds us that men have also lost the large majority of jobs in past recessions, as they did in the Great Depression, due to the fact that they are disproportionately represented in traditionally hard-hit and better-paying sectors of the economy. Indeed, one could use this observation to conclude that the gender gap in job loss reveals just how stratified the labor market remains, with nearly 90 percent of construction jobs held by men, and nearly 70 percent in manufacturing. The “mancession,” however, comes to a simpler, if misleading conclusion: men suffered far more from the Great Recession than women, and by the time we actually recover, they may find themselves even further behind.”

Fast-forward to June 2011. The  jobs report released last Friday makes one thing abundantly clear. The jobs crisis sucks for everyone. It sucks for men. It sucks for women. The suckage is particularly intense for young people and people of color, no matter what their gender. The  Center for American Progress reports that May is the 23rd month of unemployment at or above 9 percent since the Great Recession began. This is more months of high unemployment of such magnitude than during any other recession going back to the Great Depression.