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Women Lead US Economic Recovery

  • Jim Randle

The U.S. unemployment situation is improving gradually but unevenly, with women, especially, recovering the jobs they lost in the recession and adding more. Hispanic Americans were hit harder by the downturn and are recovering more slowly.

The recession hit hard in the male-dominated industries of manufacturing and construction, and these sectors recovered more slowly than the rest of the economy. That’s why men now hold hundreds of thousands fewer jobs across the economy than they did before the financial crisis.

Jeffrey Hayes studies this and other workforce issues at the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington.

“Recession did start off with large drops in some fairly male-dominated fields, construction, there was a housing crisis, and construction did drop off. [During the] finance crisis, some of the finance jobs were again male-dominated, did go away," said Hayes.

Large numbers of women work in education, health care, and business services, and the recession hit these areas later than the rest of the economy.

The female-dominated sectors also recovered more quickly than construction and manufacturing. IWPR research shows women now hold more jobs in the U.S. economy than they did before the financial crisis.

The situation is more difficult for the 23 million Hispanics in the U.S. workforce.

Hispanics historically have had a higher unemployment rate than other workers. They were badly hurt by the recession, and are recovering more slowly than other segments of the economy, according to National Council of La Raza analyst Alicia Criado.

“A majority of the jobs that have been created coming out of the recession, have been low-wage jobs, or jobs that don’t keep workers out of poverty and that is definitely the case for millions of Latino workers, who are increasingly filling jobs in the low-wage sector," she said.

The National Council of La Raza works for civil rights for Hispanics in the U.S. It supports raising the minimum wage as a way to help Hispanics escape poverty.

Criado says Hispanics are a fast-growing part of the U.S. population and will be nearly one-third of the work force by the year 2050. That, she says, makes it urgent to improve access to education and find other ways to help this part of the population reach its economic potential.

And while women may be gaining more jobs than their male counterparts, a recent study says women still make about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.