Friday, 23 October 2009

Looking at unemployment, does a ‘man-cession’ exist?

Looking at unemployment, does a ‘man-cession’ exist?: "

Some economists say the current recession has caused men to bear the brunt of unemployment to an unusual degree.

Media outlets have dubbed this idea the “man-cession.”  Hyphen or not, the concept has traveled from the New York Times (Economix Blog:  “The Mancession”) to Great Britain’s Times Online (Women are victors in ‘mancession’).

The Effects of Recessions Across Demographic Groups,” a research report from St. Louis Federal Reserve vice-president and economist Howard J. Wall contests the idea and says foregone employment is an important factor not considered in basic unemployment numbers.

Foregone employment refers to the job growth that was projected or expected to occur had the recession not transpired.

Wall says those foregone jobs are crucial when considering the unemployment gender gap, as shown in Figure 4 of the report.  “A recession is not just people losing jobs – it’s people who would have had jobs and don’t get them,” Wall noted in a statement. “While male employment has fallen at a very quick rate, their foregone employment is much smaller than it is for women.”

Used by permission of St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Used by permission of St. Louis Federal Reserve.

The first set of bars at far left show from 2007 through 2009 male employment decreased 5.7 percent and female employment fell 1.7 percent.  Men lost 3.3 times the jobs women lost.

The middle set of bars represents foregone employment.  Wall says women lost 3.7 percent of projected jobs while men lost just 2.3 percent of projected positions.  In terms of foregone employment, women lost 0.6 percent more than men.

Combining loss of actual and projected jobs, the data set to the far right shows male employment fell eight percent and female employment declined 5.5 percent.  Viewed through this lens, men still lost more jobs than women—one and a half times as many—but that is less than half the figure shown by the raw numbers alone.

Rough?  Certainly.  Man-cession?  You be the judge.

Even if you totally disagree with Wall’s methodology and findings, it’s worth reading the 21-page report for his complete perspective.  Wall also found employment has risen for workers over 55 in part because they are putting off retirement; single people have lost a lot more jobs than married people; education determines job loss more than gender; direct job loss has most affected African-Americans; and other non-white groups were most affected by foregone employment.

Economists across the country say current foreclosures are largely caused by unemployment, not the sub-prime lending practices that triggered the initial housing collapse.  While economic recovery is purportedly around the corner, RealtyTrac reports one in every 136 American homes is in some state of foreclosure.

“We have a new wave of foreclosures coming not from people who got loans that they shouldn’t have gotten, but people who got loans that they clearly could afford but prolonged unemployment has put them in a tough situation,” Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank told Bloomberg News.  Frank, a Democrat, recently sponsored a bill to provide money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to struggling homeowners.


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