Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are women more recession-proof than men?

Oh, to go back to the days when $1.75 for a gallon of gas seemed like a fortune, corn cost half of what it does today (curse you, ethanol!), and the general economy was (or at least seemed to be) tight and toned, with an emerald-tinged hue to its lining.

Now that we're entering the current recession du jour, cheaper gas and groceries are a distant memory, and we're left with a nasty subprime mess, a plummeting dollar and a higher national unemployment rate.

But before you kick off your Jimmy Choos, pull the Cynthia Rowley covers over your head and vow to never get out of bed again -- after all, the way the media makes it sound, the apocalypse is naturally upon us -- here's an interesting fact.

According to a study released in April by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women are seemingly more recession-proof than men! All right, maybe those weren't the study's exact words, but they might as well have phrased it that way. Why's that? Well, even though hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs are gone with the wind from the recessionary cold front crawling across the nation, American gals (20 years and up) have surprisingly gained almost 300,000 jobs since November 2007. American men, on the other hand, have lost 700,000 jobs during the same time period.

The huge discrepancy may be just the ego-booster we need to keep strutting our way through the work day, but a closer look at the results shows it isn't so much an "us versus them" scenario in terms of who has the better work ethic, but more so insight into which industries are getting hit the hardest.

No surprise, construction and manufacturing have been the worst bit by the recession bug, what with the slowdown in the housing market and the increased outsourcing for cheaper manufacturing labor overseas. This is all bad news for men, since the construction workforce is 88% male, while the manufacturing industry is home to a 70% male workforce, according to the BLS. Compare that with the budding recession-proof areas of education and health care, which are composed of 77% women, and you can quickly see why more men bear the brunt of the economic burden than women.

Taking it a step further, the BLS also found that Securities jobs (i.e., stock brokers, hedge fund managers, financial advisors, etc.) consist of 60% men, and along with construction and manufacturing are usually the hardest hit with layoffs when financials start heading south. Government jobs, on the other hand, are predominantly held by women (57%), and haven't felt the rising tide of pink slips like other male-dominated professions.

Although the study found women have outpaced men in terms of quantity of jobs held, the same jobs are seemingly lacking in quality. Apparently median weekly earnings for men grew 4.6% within the last year or so, while it only grew 3.1% for females. Translation: Women's jobs tend to offer lower starting salaries, less upward mobility and fewer raises. Even though the salary gap has been narrowing since the 1980s, survey results indicate it has recently widened again.

Nevertheless, keep striving for those raises, ladies! We deserve them since we're doing our part to hold up the economy during these tumultous times.

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