Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Women and the recovery

As you know one problem with the unemployment rate is that it doesn’t include discouraged workers. Another measure of joblessness is the employment-to-population ratio, i.e. the share of the population that works. Let's graph the employment rate for people aged 20-64 during the recession and recovery. Source is the Bureau of labor statistics CPS.

The numbers in the graph are for first quarter of 2008, first quarter of 2009 and first quarter of 2012. The graphs suggest we are further from a recovery than the unemployment rate indicates.

Prior to the recession, there was a trend with women doing better than men, which Casey Mulligan has written about. During the recession men took a far bigger hit than women, with their employment rate falling twice as much as women.

Since President Obama took office in the beginning of 2009, women have actually been doing worse than men. The Republicans blame this on Obama, a response of sorts I suppose to the lefts ginned up “War on Women” accusation.

It seems to me the most plausible explanation for why male employment is recovering faster is that men initially took a bigger hit. On this one Obama is right and Republicans wrong.


  1. I agree that the reason women have lagged in the recovery probably has to do with, believe it or not, the kinds of jobs Women engage in more than men. Currently the first thing that left in the economy were construction jobs, those are also going to be the first thing to come back. Of this, at least in every construction site I have been to over the course of the last 20 years, a ratio of 20 to 1 seem to be men.

    Now as far as the 'War on Women' and the Republican Response, the point is one of rhetoric and of little substance and I get tired of it.

    The really sad thing is that we are SO far away from a real recovery, we are still short 6 million jobs just to get back to the 2007 level. Then there is the question of Population growth that requires even more jobs to fill the participation rates, which are now down to levels not seen since the early 1980's.

    In the end the numbers are what the numbers are, I am sure that if we simply took Paul Krugman's advice and tripled the Stimulus then everything would come roaring back to life. So since the President did not try to do that would that not technically make him incompetent and thereby mean that he should not be re-elected?

    Just a thought. So either he did not do enough, and he should not be reelected, or the stimulus that he did was not effective, in which case he is incompetent and should not be reelected lol.

    Truthfully I think it was regulation ( not just his ) that is weighing the United States down more than it is tax rates, or deficit spending, added with the restrictive lending policies of banks now.

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  3. What surprises me (and in the same moment makes me sad)is that anyone is willing to build this argument just on the basis of the graph. It looks persuasive just until the moment when you realize wider context. As Forrest wrote, since the structure of employment of men and women is totally different, conclusion that Obama can be blamed for difference in recovery is flawed. Criticism at any costs just brings irrationality into the debate.

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